Mar 8, 2024 - News

When being a great teacher really pays off

Jay Banner talking with a student by Loop 360.

Jay Banner talking with a student by Loop 360 about hundred-million-year-old rocks. Photo: Courtesy of Jay Banner

A University of Texas professor recently won a top teaching award.

Why it matters: From elementary school to graduate school, teachers deserve recognition.

Catch up quick: Jay Banner was awarded Baylor University's Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching, which comes with a $250,000 prize.

  • Banner, whose teaching interests are in sustainability, environmental science, geochemistry and environmental justice, is a professor in UT's Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and director of its Environmental Science Institute.

Plus: He oversees the public lecture series Hot Science – Cool Talks, as well as a scientist-in-residence program that partners graduate-student researchers with K-12 teachers, and a new project that connects researchers and people in underserved communities to address climate resilience challenges.

What they're saying: Banner "not only shows that geosciences matters when it comes to big issues, but why it matters on a community scale," Claudia Mora, dean of the Jackson School of Geosciences, said in a statement.

  • "When I think of great teachers I've known, they share their excitement of discovery about how the world works," Banner said. "If a teacher can take a complex concept, whether it's in science, engineering or the humanities, and help students understand it and be excited about having learned it, that's what it's all about."

What we're watching: Great teaching in action β€”Β Banner's Cherry Award finalist lecture, delivered last year, titled "21st Century Texas: Climate, Water, Science, and Society."

πŸ’­ My thought bubble: Banner has been a patient resource not only for students, but also journalists.

  • When I covered the energy and environmental beat at the Austin American-Statesman, Banner kindly invited me on spelunking expeditions and into his classroom to chat about the consequences of a changing climate.

What's next: Attend the next Hot Science – Cool Talks event β€” it's free and open to the public β€” on March 22 at Welch Hall, where astronomy professor Caitlin Casey will deliver a talk titled "Breaking the Universe: Discoveries From the Beginning of Time."

  • Banner tells Axios that with all that money he will probably write bigger checks to his favorite charities.
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