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Amy Murrell Taylor

Headshot of Professor Amy Murrell Taylor

2016 Great Teacher Award
University of Kentucky Alumni Association

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?
I really do not know! But what an honor it was to be recognized by students.

In your opinion, what are the qualities of a great teacher?
Respect for students and their ideas is number one. Enthusiasm, as well as an ability to make sure students understand the importance of what goes on in the classroom, helps too.

What do you find most gratifying about teaching?
To be able to reach so many people and to have even the smallest impact on their lives. What a privilege! I am amazed sometimes to think about all my former students, spread far and wide across the country, and to wonder what lessons, or what classroom experiences, have accompanied them over the years.

What makes teaching challenging?
Trying to reach every student in a classroom when those students possess an enormously wide-ranging set of interests, skill levels, and backgrounds.

How have you navigated those challenges?
I do not hide the challenge but encourage students to embrace their diversity and to appreciate the exchange it allows us in the classroom. I also reach out to students individually, encouraging conversations outside of class, to make sure they all know that they are heard and that I am respectful of their unique needs (or problems or concerns).

What are your interests outside of teaching (i.e., hobbies)?
Running, gardening, hiking.

Who inspires you? And why?
People who are resilient, who bounce back from hardship and press on anyway.

What is your favorite book and/or author?
Anything by Mark Twain.

What would want to be if you weren’t a teacher?
A police detective, a psychologist, or a journalist: anything to allow me to observe and study human behavior (which I do currently as a historian).

What advice would you give to faculty at the beginning of her/his teaching career?
It gets easier, or at least less bewildering.

In your opinion, how can faculty be most effective in the classroom?
By being adaptable: every classroom, every student, every day is different, but by remaining sensitive to those differences, rather than relying on the same lecture or same lesson plan and using it over and over every semester, a teacher can, I think, be highly effective.

What resources would you share with other faculty seeking to adopt new teaching practices?
Our university is one great big resource for teachers! Visit colleagues' classrooms and observe their teaching practices: every day there is wonderful teaching expertise on exhibition, ready to be shared.

Amy Murrell Taylor is an Associate Professor of History in the College of Arts and Sciences.