“Office hours” are an elastic concept for Michigan Tech’s 2012 Distinguished Teaching Award winners.
Roger Woods, a lecturer in the School of Business and Economics, received the award in the assistant professor/professor of practice/lecturer category. He also synchronizes his schedule to his students.’
“I’m on IM from 8 to 10 p.m.,” he said. “That’s when they are doing homework. When they get stuck, I help them get unstuck.”
Woods came to Michigan Tech in spring 2003. The former IBM manager and engineer teaches Quantitative Problem Solving and is an instructor in the Business Development Experience, the School’s equivalent of Senior Design. He also has taught a variety of other courses, including project management, operations management and entrepreneurship.
Students polled in his Quantitative Problem Solving class wrote, “He never lets a student fall behind if the student is putting their 100 percent effort into the course”; “He makes a difficult class enjoyable and gives us plenty of opportunities to get help”; and “He is the BEST teacher that I have ever had, period. Of all the schools I have ever been to, he is the most helpful teacher and the most excited about his job. He creates energy so that this class will never be boring and keeps us busy.”
How does he inspire such enthusiasm? “I think it’s access,” Woods said. “I don’t expect them to learn everything from a book or from a lecture. It’s going to take some exploring; when they explore, they sometimes need help, and that doesn’t happen on my schedule.” He also makes a special effort to tailor the material for his students. “It’s important to think of your audience.”
One of the best things about teaching, he said, is watching a student experience the “aha!” moment that may serve them later in their careers. “I want them to walk away with confidence that they can learn, not just regurgitate information,” he said. “Someday they will be in the workplace, without a professor, and I want them to apply these lessons so that ultimately they will do their job better.”
“I challenge them, I make them think,” Woods added. “If they are willing to respond by thinking, then they get it, and that’s rewarding to them. And I enjoy interacting with those students who have that desire to learn.”
Just reading a textbook won’t cut it. “Word gets out: don’t miss class,” he said.
Occasionally, students let him know his efforts have paid off after they leave the University for the corporate world. “I get emails back saying, ‘I did what you told me, and I was a star.'”
“It’s no surprise” that Woods has been honored for his teaching, said Tom Merz, associate dean of the School. “Roger has a great rapport with younger people,” he said. “It’s a cliche, but it’s still true: he deeply cares about younger people, and he gets a lot of gratification watching them work hard and succeed. Plus, he has a sense of his audience, who he is communicating with, so he can reach them.”
His students agree. Wrote one, “When I tell people that I’m in BUS2300, people say ‘Is Woods still teaching that? I loved that guy.'”