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Jacqueline Couti

Headshot of Professor Jacqueline Couti

Award for Diversity and Inclusion
2016 College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Teaching Awards

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?
In the end of semester course evaluations and the letters students sent to me after graduation, they often comment on the same points. They stress how much I have shown them that they could do and be more than they initially expected. They also underscore how wide their understanding and acceptance of others and their culture have become. I believe that their remarks best highlight my contribution to them and to the University of Kentucky. I strive to empower them to be who they did not yet know that they could be, a better citizen of the world. In so doing, my teaching style allows them to develop skills such as problem-solving and cultural competency that can be applied outside of the classroom and will be useful for the rest of their lives.

In your opinion, what are the qualities of a great teacher?
A great teacher should be able to reach people coming from different walks of life and facing many various challenges to make them want to learn, discover new things, and better themselves. This implies many strategies that can take many forms. What works best for me is teaching by example, being demanding, embracing chaos while using a lot of humor. If I want them to sing, I first sing. If I want them to share about themselves, I first share. Most of my students know that I enjoy running at an ungodly hour. My classes remind them that life can be challenging and scary. They also realize that confronting all these challenges, in often a chaotic fashion, is ok. We will all support one another to get through the semester. Chaos is simply an order looking for itself.

What do you find most gratifying about teaching?
What I enjoy most is to witness a student grow and become their own person. The other most gratifying element of teaching for me is when my students teach me something or make me aware of a point or a nuance I have never considered.

What makes teaching challenging?
For me, the challenge is to make people from different backgrounds connect with one another and various topics, among other things. Only then can teaching and learning take place. Sometimes, in my enthusiasm, I am in the way of my teaching; I have to let students take the space and make it their own. Yet, for that to happen, I have to lead them. I need to strike a balance between self-awareness and awareness of others.

How have you navigated those challenges?
After doing all my planning, my research, I embrace chaos and march on while keeping a compassionate heart. Also, I run to release stress.

What are your interests outside of teaching (i.e., hobbies)?
Running, dancing, yoga, and gardening. Anything that will take me away from intense intellectual/mental work.

Who inspires you? And why?
People who inspire me are people who are willing to share with and support others.

What is your favorite book and/or author?
A book or author that makes me learn more about myself and others. There are too many to pick only one. My preferences will change with my mood.

What would want to be if you weren’t a teacher?
A mesmerizing dancer or a flamboyant artist; I would have created beauty and bedazzled people with magnificence.

What advice would you give to faculty at the beginning of her/his teaching career?
Be open to the unexpected and embrace it. I will also tell them to shadow and observe great teachers. Finally, they need be aware that they may be dealing with a group of students and a particular ethos different from previous institutions. It is important to know who is your teaching constituency and adapt accordingly. Then you can think of the best strategies to cater to students’ needs.

In your opinion, how can faculty be most effective in the classroom?
They have to be in control, flexible, and open at the same time.

What resources would you share with other faculty seeking to adopt new teaching practices?
In my field, there are a lot of webinars offered by various organizations and they are often free. So I will tell people to use all the online resources available out there. Also people should look into what UK as to offer; for instance, they could take advantage of the services offered by CELT.

Jacqueline Couti is Associate Professor of French and Francophone Studies in the Department of Modern & Classical Languages, Literatures & Cultures. Dr. Couti is also the recipient of a 2013-2014 Outstanding Teaching Award from the College of Arts and Sciences.