Teaching Tips

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Ask anybody who has taken a class from College of Charleston Spanish professor Devon Hanahan and they will probably use superlatives to describe her teaching,

Best. Awesome. Greatest.

Now the kudos are coming from the national level.

A professor-rating website, mtvU's ratemyprofessors.com, announced this week that Hanahan was the second-highest-rated teacher in the nation. Many students check out professor ratings on the wildly popular site before enrolling in courses.

Ratemyprofessors.com contains ratings for 1.8 million professors at more than 8,000 schools in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. It also contains 15 million student-generated comments and ratings,

Hanahan, a 1987 graduate of the college, also was rated second-highest in 2007. “I'm so appreciative of the ratings and the comments,” she said. “But there really is no way to tell who is the best teacher in my hallway, much less in the United States.”

She simply loves teaching, she said, and knew since she was a child that she wanted to teach. “If I won the lottery, I would still be here every day,” she said.

On the website, students rate professors on several dimensions, including clarity, helpfulness, easiness and rater interest. However, a professor's overall quality rating, from which the highest rated professor list is generated, is based only on clarity and helpfulness.

Hanahan said students are more likely to rate and comment on professors they feel strongly about, either good or bad.

Lynn Cherry, the college's speaker of the faculty, said most professors aren't concerned about the ratings. Most positive comments about professors likely are true, she said. But many negative comments likely come from students who didn't do the work and got a bad grade. Fortunately, she said, students are savvy enough to sort it out.

Most students seem to think Hanahan is great.

Paula Jones, a former student, said Hanahan inspired her to major in Spanish. She went on to teach Spanish for six years after graduation.

And Marcus Hammond, a College of Charleston graduate and former basketball player, said Hanahan was “very, very inspiring.”

He had never even considered studying abroad, but Hanahan pushed him to enroll in a five-week study program in Spain, he said. That trip opened the world to him, he said, and expanded the vision for the rest of his life. “There's so much out there to accomplish instead of settling for anything,” he said.

Hanahan's class wasn't easy, Hammond said, and she took the class very seriously. In the early days of one of Hanahan's classes, he said, he sat toward the back of the room and wasn't paying close attention. She noticed that, he said, and she moved him to the front of the room.

Hanahan said she knows she's not easy. Of all the criteria on which students rate her, she has the lowest scores on easiness. “I give a lot of homework and we're busy all through class,” she said. “I never start class late and we never finish early.”

But, she said, “I try to make things clear.”

Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.