Professor Mark Nielsen
  • Professor (Lecturer), Biology

Current Courses

Fall 2019

Spring 2019

Teaching Philosophy


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 maybe, do I teach because it affords a good lifestyle?  Better yet, 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 the 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.


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?