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Francesco Masala

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Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award
2016 University of Kentucky Faculty Award Ceremony

At the risk of putting you on the spot, what contribution to teaching do you believe led to your award recognition during the 2015-2016 academic school year?
My international background and my ability to understand students' needs.

In your opinion, what are the qualities of a great teacher?
Great teachers are a guide for their students: they help them when needed. They are inspirational, strong, flexible and passionate.

What do you find most gratifying about teaching?
Knowing that I am helping students to discover new cultures and see the world from a different perspective.

What makes teaching challenging?
Not having enough time. Sometimes there is too much material to cover and too many exams to grade.

How have you navigated those challenges?
Time has helped me to gain more experience and now I prepare my material in a more strategic way.

What are your interests outside of teaching (i.e., hobbies)?
I love working out at the gym, running, and cooking healthy recipes with vegetables or fruits.

Who inspires you? And why?
My mother is my inspiration. She is the strongest woman I know. She moved from Ecuador to Italy in 1971 to find a better future and I did the same thing when I decided to move from Italy to the US in 2012. It was tough sometimes but she always helped to be strong.

What is your favorite book and/or author?
Oh, My Mother, Who Art in Hell by Carmen Jiménez. It's the story of a woman who moves to Spain in order to escape from her problematic life in Dominican Republic.

In your opinion, how can faculty be most effective in the classroom?
They always have to be able to surprise their students. We live in a world where young generations are exposed to a variety of influences and tend to get distracted very easily. Instructors must help them to understand that being in class can be fun, instructional, surprising, and what is learned in a classroom cannot be learned on any social network.

What resources would you share with other faculty seeking to adopt new teaching practices?
I would suggest to create workshops in their departments to share ideas and new strategies. Also, what really helps is sharing syllabi, homework and videos. For example, I record lessons using the lightboard in the CELT lab at UK and I upload them on my website which is accessible to everybody: students, teachers, or any persons who might be interested.

Francesco Masala is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Hispanic Studies.