2012 Faculty Awards: Q&A with Hiller Spires

May 8, 2012
By Bill Krueger

The Alumni Association honored 21 NC State professors last week for their outstanding work in the classroom, in the laboratory and in the field. We talked (via email) with some of the recipients about their work and the keys to being a successful professor.

Today we’re visiting with Hiller Spires, a professor in the College of Education and a senior research fellow at the  Friday Institute for Educational Innovation. Spires is one of two professors being recognized as Distinguished Graduate Professors.

faculty-spiresWhat is the key to being a successful teacher? Any success I’ve had as a teacher is derived, I think, from my passion for compelling ideas and creating conditions for students to be curious and intellectually challenged. I’ve found that students more often than not rise to the learning occasion. I see my role as setting high expectations, modeling intellectual curiosity and being available to mentor, challenge and provide resources for students to be successful. I’m not afraid to show my enthusiasm and students tell me that it is contagious. “If you tell me, I will listen. If you show me, I will see. If you let me experience, I will learn.” This well-known quote by Lao Tau aptly captures my philosophy of teaching.

What gives you the greatest satisfaction as a professor? My favorite aspect of graduate teaching is engaging my students as co-researchers. I enjoy supporting students as they learn the rigors of the educational research process, including publishing findings and sharing them with professional audiences at conferences. It’s rewarding to watch as students become confident in their new-found knowledge and skills. I take satisfaction knowing that I have a part in contributing to the next generation of educational researchers.


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