The Editorially Independent Voice of The University of Akron

The Buchtelite

The Editorially Independent Voice of The University of Akron

The Buchtelite

The Editorially Independent Voice of The University of Akron

The Buchtelite

Top teachers at UA

“What the teacher is, is more important than what he teaches. As the semester comes to a close at the University of Akron, students unwittingly validate the thoughts of American psychologist and philanthropist Karl Menninger. In addition to completing teacher evaluations, many students read and create their own evaluations on Ratemyprofessors.”

What the teacher is, is more important than what he teaches.

As the semester comes to a close at the University of Akron, students unwittingly validate the thoughts of American psychologist and philanthropist Karl Menninger. In addition to completing teacher evaluations, many students read and create their own evaluations on These student ratings often show how much a professor can make or break a class.

Although many of the 888 UA professors listed on were given excellent ratings, a list of top ten professors was formed from data received on the website. Only professors over twenty ratings were eligible for this category.

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The overall average rating was used to rank them. In the case of a tie in overall average rating, the professor who received more comments was listed first.

The top five professors shared their views on their ranking.

1. Dr. Andrew Rancer

As an undergraduate student at Queen’s College of the City University of New York, Rancer was unaware that he would end up as a professor, let alone the University of Akron’s top rated professor. Now, 33 years later, he remains humble and surprised that his students would give him such a rating.

I can’t believe it, he said. I just thought I was doing my job.

So what is Rancer’s big secret?

I like to use humor as much as possible, he said. Sometimes the students take it well, but sometimes I’m not so successful at it.

Rancer’s interest in teaching began in graduate school.

As part of my graduate research, I had to teach, he said. My professors helped me make the decision to continue in the field of education.

Rancer passes along the same courtesy his professors showed him to this day, even after graduation.

Seeing my students get good jobs, or going on to get graduate degrees is the most rewarding part of being a professor, he said. My students have met great success in both academia and in the business world.

I hope that I will continue to still have that spark that makes me enjoy coming to work every day. That’s what makes it all worth it.

2. Sue Young

Most people claim that they hate mathematics more than any other subject.

Sue Young apparently found her own way to combat this.

What they are, however, she isn’t sure.

I don’t know what I do differently, she explained. I enjoy my job, and I try to explain concepts so my students can understand them. I keep my office door open to students as often as I can, but I assume that everyone does that.

Perhaps it’s chemistry. Mrs. Young’s husband, Dr. Jerry Young, also a mathematics professor, received a 4.9 average out of 9 reviews on the Web site.

My husband got hired, and I began teaching part time at the University of Akron because there was an opening, she said. It was just luck, it was being in the right place at the right time.

But what most likely sends her to the number two position isn’t based on luck or methodology, but simply her relationship to her students.

When I teach, I try to remember when I was a student – what I liked, and what I didn’t like, she said. I take students’ comments really seriously. When they tell me they like something, I don’t want to change it. My best advice comes from students.

3. Heather Pollock

Greeted by a Paul McCartney poster at her door, a world of mythology, art, culture and pure craziness awaits all who enter Pollock’s office.

Pollock herself is not much different. A graduate of Akron’s Firestone High School, who studied all the way in Australia to return to her hometown, she admits the secret to her success as an instructor comes from her crazy personality and her willingness to share it with her students.

I think my biggest success is the way my students and I communicate, she said. I talk to them like they’re my peers. I guess when you say words like ‘vagina’ and ‘penis’ on the first days of class, they develop that comfortability thing.

Pollock can still relate to students by remembering her own days as a student.

I loved being a student, she said.There’s no better time than being a college student.

The question of course, is how she still manages to hold the boss title.

Accountability is a big deal, she mused. There are a lot of ways to go about that the wrong way – dictatorially. I think that the students know that I’m accountable to them. It makes them feel like we’re all in this together.

Pollock’s love for the subject doesn’t hurt her chances with students either.

It’s amazing to teach something you really love, she said. The more successful angle for teaching the classics is relating it to something current.

Her love for Greek Mythology is contagious; her self-defined best teaching moments verify this.

Four different times I’ve had students email me after leaving class with something that doesn’t deal with homework or test, she said. I was just floored – it’s like a crazy teacher’s dream, that people would think about your stuff after class.

4. Mr. Lance Nelson.

It is not uncommon to hear the following words uttered in various hallways of the math and engineering departments, Taking Differential Equations? Take LWhile this course name, along with some of the other courses Mr. Nelson teaches, has a horrible sounding name, he isn’t worried. Like many of the other professors in the top ten, he has a few secrets up his sleeve.

I try to use my personality to invite my students to come to me and not feel intimidated not to ask me questions, he said. I don’t want people to think, ‘I hate math.’ I feel like I’m approachable enough so that people think, ‘I get it.’ That makes me feel good.

While his methods obviously work, Nelson still can’t understand why he’s received so many awards and compliments on them.

It’s like, you got rewarded for just recognizing people’s disabilities and using them in your lectures, he said. Honestly, I just do what I feel is going to be beneficial to the students.

Thanks are in order to Dr. Jerry Young and Dr. Kevin Kreider of the mathematics department at UA – the driving forces behind Nelson’s decision to stay in academia.

When I was a graduate student, I liked the way they taught, he said. They made me think I would love to be able to do it.

Now a full time instructor, Nelson offers wisdom for UA students.

Don’t feel embarrassed to talk to an instructor, he said. I don’t know how to scuba dive, for example. There are experts out there who I would ask if I wanted to learn; I’m not supposed to feel stupid, I’m curious. Students should be able to talk to their professors without feeling stupid.

5. Mark Rittenour, J.D.

If fate would have its way, Mark Rittenour, he would currently be sitting behind a desk in a law office.

Fortunately for the students in his public speaking classes, Rittenour chose to take his J.D. degree from Case Western in another direction.

I sort of fell into my job while I was coaching the speech team here, he explained. They asked me while I was in law school if I could come and do some coaching, and I picked up a few classes while I was here.

The irony of a lawyer defending the horrible reputation public speaking classes have gained speaks for itself.

I teach a course based on the world’s bigge
st fear, he said. The most rewarding aspect is seeing people improve through the course of the semester. I’d say that I really understand a lot of the things the students go through, because I don’t think that public speaking and being successful at communication is something that comes naturally to a lot of people.

Rittenour also used his recent college experience to his advantage. Not being in college that long ago lets me realize what my students are going through in their courses, he added.

His favorite course? Rittenour admitted that it’s argumentation, even though he enjoys all his courses.

It really teaches students that true persuasion is about making arguments, not having arguments, he explained. Teaching people to view persuasion as an art, rather than a coercive force, encapsulates everything I do.

According to Rittenour, his success in academia can be blamed on his mother.

My mom is a teacher in the Akron Public Schools, and she always said that she could see me teaching, even while I was in law school, he said. I saw the differences she made in students’ lives, and I wanted to do the same.

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