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My Philosophy as a Teacher in a Nutshell

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Q1. What two qualities or characteristics are most important in a college teacher?

A1. For me, two qualities are uppermost: (a) a seasoned competence in the subject at hand and (b) a tangible enthusiasm and pedagogical art for effectively communicating it. The professors I appreciated most were always those who took me, step by step, into depths of understanding that enchanted me and transformed my way of viewing, of judging, of being in the world. They knew their subject intimately and were passionate about the importance of what they taught. One could feel that they were shaped and transformed by what they taught and, as day follows night, their teaching was infectious for me and my classmates as well.

My best teachers cared for me, listened deeply to me, and were curious about how my inner thoughts and life experiences shaped my understanding. My best teachers measured their success by my successes. They were demanding yet understanding, firm yet yielding, but, in all cases, zealous in the pursuit of truth, even when they discover it from their own students. They lived in action, yet their action was steeped in prayer and contemplation.

Q2. What connection would you see between academic learning in religion/philosophy/science and the Christian vocation of your students?

A2. My own religious journey has always been deeply intertwined with my own academic learning, and, in turn, my academic learning has nourished my life-long thirst for God. Even today, I can still declare, "God is not finished with me yet." I take consolation in the words of John Henry Newman: "To live is to change; to grow perfect is to have changed often." My tacit prayer in every classroom is that I might continue to be worthy to undertake the awesome responsibility of helping others find their own voice and discern their own journey into those mysterious places that God calls them.

Over the years, I slowly formed the conviction that growth in theological and pastoral resourcefulness ought to go hand-in-hand with an expanded sense of calling, of mission, and of graceful living. As a result, when I first began teaching Franciscan Friars at St. Leonard College (Centerville, OH), my rule of thumb was that any theology that failed to enlarge the soul was either being "poorly understood" or "poorly presented." Theological competence, spiritual enlargement, and transforming society are thus, for me, intertwined and synergistic.