Video: Reiko Hillyer named CAS Teacher of the Year
April 21, 2009
On April 15, students recognized Reiko Hillyer, visiting professor of history, as Teacher of the Year, an award that has been bestowed on faculty by the student body since 1993.
The student committee charged with selecting the teacher of the year chose Hillyer based on the quality of the nomination letters submitted by students. Jim Proctor, Director of Environmental Studies, Matthieu Ralliard, Assistant Professor of Spanish, and Matthew Robins, technical director in the Theater Department, were also chosen as finalists.
In this video, Hillyer shows her surprise and jokes that she had not come prepared with a speech. The Source gave her a chance to catch her breath before asking her to weigh in on this special honor.
What does it mean to earn an award that is inspired by the students themselves?
Hillyer: There is no question that it is an incredible honor that this honor is initiated by the students. In particular, I was struck by the time, effort, and care they took to write letters. And, the letters, about all of the nominees, also revealed how thoughtful and reflective the students are about their own learning process.
What do you love about teaching history?
Hillyer: This is a big one, and hard to explain briefly! One challenge I love about teaching the discipline of history specifically, is trying to help the students develop the compassion it requires to understand people from the past that we may not like. Another aspect I love is that when students realize that the world has not always been as it is now, they learn that they can change it. History is not the result of abstract forces, but of human decisions. To paraphrase Frederick Douglass, what men can make, men can unmake. On the other hand, more broadly, it’s the teaching, not the subject matter, that I love the most. It’s nice to know that the students appreciate that too.
What do you find most interesting/challenging about teaching Lewis & Clark students?
Hillyer: The students at Lewis & Clark are extraordinary. They are earnest, curious, and eager to do good in the world. They are kind and easy to be with, and I try to have them over to my house as often as I can. They are willing to make themselves vulnerable. They manage to hold a commitment to intellectual and personal growth but without losing perspective on the world outside the classroom that needs their passion and talent so desperately.
In presenting Hillyer as a finalist at the Teacher of the Year event, senior Charles Halvorson shared praise from fellow students and spoke personally of Hillyer’s ability to “re-inspire” him in history, his chosen major.
“This emphasis on the historian as a human being, coupled with the critical examination of traditional narratives undertaken in her course on African American history, made plain to me the crucial utility that history provides. Far from the erudite words of a few dry, old men, history explains the pulsating, dynamic world around us. I am certainly not alone in thanking Professor Hillyer for this, quite powerful, realization.”