Department of Biology

Professor Mark Nielsen

Professor Mark Nielsen

Why teach?  There are probably many answers to this question,  yet I find that the question makes me ask more questions. Do I teach because it is part of the job description?  Do I teach to gratify my ego and display my knowledge?  Or any other of many questions that one could ask?  One of the better ones is, are there selfish motives, for as John Cotton Dana said, "Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn."  And I must admit, I love to learn. So what is my answer to why teach?

As I ponder this question different statements parade through my mind.  What do I want to hear students say? Do I want to hear —  "he is a good lecturer", or "he knows his stuff", or "he is organized."  While these statements are honorable,  the one I strive for is — "he is a great teacher, this guy knows how to teach."  Because within my definition of a teacher lies the answer to why teach.

I believe that a teacher is not simply a knowledge source.  One might profess knowledge, wisdom, and expertise, yet never truly be a teacher.  Anyone can profess knowledge.  A teacher is someone who uses their knowledge, wisdom, and expertise to show others how to learn, how to think, and how to use knowledge as a problem-solving tool.  A teacher gives something back, motivates, and positively influences a student's career or life.  This is the challenge of the teacher. This is what the teacher wants to achieve.  It is within this context that I find my answer to "why teach?"

In conclusion let me quote Henry Brooks Adams — "A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops."  Therefore, let me conclude by posing the better question — Why not teach?

Teaching Philosophy

The #1 don't in my classes, don't be afraid to ask questions!

Please feel free to contact me or visit my office with any questions.

There are no dumb questions, so do not be afraid to ask me anything.

Office:          Building 044 Room 122


Address:     University of Utah Dept of Biology

                    257 South 1400 East

                    Salt Lake City, UT 84112

Phone:          (801) 581-3233