Senior Instructor of Management Jeffrey Nystrom received the University of Colorado Denver Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching September 5, 2014. Nystrom teaches undergraduate and graduate management classes at the CU Denver Business School. The university-wide award comes a decade after Nystrom received the Business School’s Annual Excellence in Teaching Award.
Like most academics, Nystrom felt unprepared to teach following completion of graduate school in 1997. “I knew I had the seed within me to become a great teacher,” says Nystrom, so he pushed on into education. After receiving the Excellence in Teaching Award in 2004, Nystrom competed for the campus-level Award for Excellence in Teaching, but did not win. “I interpreted [the first award] as a sign that I had become a great teacher,” says Nystrom. He used the loss as a learning experience, “I learned that becoming a great teacher is not a goal that one achieves, but rather something that one forever pursues and never truly achieves.”
Nystrom continued his pursuit to be a great teacher. He found the most satisfaction from helping students reach “ah ha” moments: times when students would convey they connected with Nystrom or the course material beyond simple comprehension. “Bottom line: disseminating knowledge in a classroom is an easy task; creating the ‘ah ha’ moments is much more challenging.”
Through the years, Nystrom has honed his craft using self-reflection. He believes great teachers discover and understand their innate teaching philosophies, not follow someone else’s or create one from scratch. Through self-reflection, he has built his teaching philosophy on eight tenets. One, he says, stands above the rest: altruism. “[Great teachers] frequently and willingly subjugate their personal ambitions and needs to the ambitions of others.”