At the beginning of her art classes, Sheri Fleck Rieth throws down the gauntlet.
“I will work you really hard,” she tells students. “Hard work may not be your work ethic when we start, but, hopefully, it will be by the end.”
To many of her students, that challenge, combined with a healthy dose of inspiration, defines a great instructor. That is why students nominated her for Liberal Arts Outstanding Teacher of the Year for 2006-07.
“Sheri is the best professor I have ever had,” said Robin Jayne Henderson (BA 07), a recent graduate from Brandon. “Never has anyone done so much to encourage me and to help prepare me for life.”
Rieth embraces a “teach the whole person” approach with her students. “First and foremost, a teacher must have patience,” she said. “Don’t make learning a scavenger hunt. Tell students what you seek as their teacher, and show them how to do it. Teach them how to think, then encourage them to put theory to work.”
Students, faculty, staff and alumni submit nominations for the outstanding teacher award. Recipients must demonstrate excellence in classroom instruction, stimulate students intellectually and show concern for students’ welfare.
“Professor Rieth’s genuine interest in her students’ learning and their lives permeates her classroom and enables her to make an individual connection with each student,” said Glenn Hopkins, dean of the College of Liberal Arts.
Rieth holds degrees from the University of Kansas (Lawrence) and the Memphis College of Art. She has shown her work in local, national and international exhibitions. At UM, Rieth teaches printmaking, bookmaking and drawing.