Princeton Review Books, in conjunction with RateMyProfessor.com, recently released a new publication, “The Best 300 Professors,” created to recognize professors from across the nation recognized by students as impacting and inspiring educators. Among those honored in the book are two Centre professors: Paul L. Cantrell Associate Professor of Religion and College Chaplain Rick Axtell and Associate Professor of French Patrice Mothion.
“The fact that this honor was partly based on what students have reported about their own experiences in class makes it especially meaningful,” Axtell says. “I realize that I am fortunate to be in an environment where students and colleagues motivate one another to be their best. I am surrounded here by inspiring teachers.”
“I won’t deny it, it makes me very happy,” Mothion says of this recognition. “I feel particularly honored to be recognized along with Rick, who is someone that I have admired since I started teaching at Centre. To be perfectly honest, I am also a little embarrassed because I know that many of my Centre colleagues also deserve to be on that list for their talent and dedication as professors.”
Both professors appreciate being able to teach classes that will remain relevant to students throughout their lives.
“I hope my students understand that they can always be successful at learning French, if they so desire,” Mothion says. “I believe that learning a foreign language is only a matter of dedication and patience. Ideally, students should take away from my classes that, after a certain level, they do not need me to help them—they can learn and master the language by themselves. The most meaningful aspect is when students continue to use or learn French after their time at Centre or when they tell me that they really enjoyed learning the language.”
“I am fortunate to teach a variety of courses in social ethics with subject matter that is inherently eye-opening, relevant, and often personally transformative, with a real-world experiential dimension,” Axtell says. “Courses on poverty, violence or human rights have the capacity to raise questions about what kind of people students really want to be in a world of seemingly intractable problems. I believe that teaching can be transformative, and it can develop students with a critical consciousness who are more likely to be involved in creative social change as informed and responsible citizens.”
Axtell enjoys seeing students utilizing information learned in class in new and important ways.
“Few things are more meaningful than witnessing the transformative power of learning that connects students experientially with what they are studying in class,” he says. “Reflecting with students after playing with children of the municipal dump in Managua, harvesting coffee in a mountain cooperative, interviewing survivors of a massacre in Chiapas or staying overnight in Louisville homeless shelters, I have sensed that the resulting questions would fuel lifelong quests for knowledge, and ongoing commitments to make a difference in the world.”
Many of Mothion’s favorite experiences as a professor have also taken place outside of the classroom.
“The most exciting aspect of being a professor for me is being able to create a personal gallery of ‘powerful moments’ experienced in the company of my students,” he says. ‘For example, watching Kathi Woolridge ‘04 seeing the Eiffel Tower sparkle in the night for the first time—fantastic! Taking Cortney Miller ‘11 sailing off the French Catalan coast—fabulous! Discreetly watching Rachel Tapley ‘07 calling her parents from the museum of the Abbey of Montserrat in Catalunya—moving! When moments like that take place, I feel that I have done my job well.”
To learn more about “The Best 300 Professors,” click here.