Steve Robert Simmons is Morse-Alumni Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Minnesota. He served for 32 years in the Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics where he taught and conducted research on topics ranging from plant physiology to agroecology. He continues to serve as a mentor for graduate students and pre-tenured faculty through the universityâ€™s Center for Teaching and Learning Services. In his retirement, Steve is writing creative nonfiction and is working on a book of personal essays. He and his wife, Mary Ann, have three adult daughters and a grandson, all of whom live in Seattle, WA.The following article was originally publishedÂ in theÂ InterVarsityÂ Faculty MinistryÂ Lamp PostÂ in 2010.
Ten years into my academic career (in 1987), I was encouraged by my Dean to write an article describing my convictions about teaching for an in-house publication. This was before teaching portfolios and statements of teaching philosophy had become more common in universities. After some thought, I wrote a one-page article titled “Teachers Are A Lot Like People.”[1. R. Simmons. 1987. â€œTeachers Are A Lot Like People.â€ In Dialogue (March 9, 1987 issue). College of Agriculture, University of Minnesota.]Â It considered this question:Â What must a teacher do to be a â€œgoodâ€ teacher?
I came up with a motto that summarized my viewpointâ€”â€œBEÂ PREPARED, BE CONCERNED, BEÂ YOURSELF.â€ This motto encapsulated my philosophy and I trusted it would help bring me into a deeper understanding and practice in my role as a university teacher. The motto still has much to offer me, but I have since added another componentâ€”BEÂ GRACE-FULL. As one dedicated to living my Christian faith through my professional endeavors, I have been exploring what it means to bring elements of graceâ€”of unmerited favorâ€”into my teaching, and particularly my role as a mentor of students.
Background on mentoring
When I think of graduate studies, I especially think of mentoring and its importance for defining a faculty personâ€™s relationship with students. While most faculty regard mentoring as part of their role in graduate teaching, my perspective is that only students can identify the people who have served as their mentors. [Read more…] about Steve Simmons: Students Are a Lot Like People