Learning on a daily basis

Mike Jones and senior student running on a treadmill behind him

“Great teaching is about facilitating how to learn,” says Mike Jones. Photo: Joshua Clark/UIC Photo Services

Since 1966, the Silver Circle Award has been presented to some of UIC’s best teachers. Winners, who are honored at their college commencements, receive $500 and their names join a long list of distinguished colleagues. But what makes the award especially meaningful is its selection committee: the graduating seniors.

Mike Jones’ interests have drawn him to widely differing pursuits, including a national tour of the Disney musical “Beauty and the Beast” and 13 years as a massage therapy instructor.

But it’s teaching that “makes me want to get out of bed — early! — every morning,” he says.

His Silver Circle was awarded for his first year of teaching at UIC, but it’s not the first UIC award for Jones, who earned his bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. here. As an undergrad, he received the Chancellor’s Award for Service and second place in life sciences at the Student Research Forum. As a graduate student, he won teaching awards in 2012 and 2013 and was voted the most outstanding teaching assistant in kinesiology.

“Learning on a daily basis” is what Jones likes best about his job. “I enjoy working side by side with students in applied settings — anatomy labs, research, mentoring — to make discoveries. There is no other profession as dynamic and meaningful as being an educator.”

Asked what kind of student he likes to teach, Jones replies, “a humble student.”

“True learning rarely involves a pretty process,” he says. “Inquiry necessitates confusion, which begets self-reflection. Any student who is willing to humble themselves before the hard work of learning is someone I relish teaching.

“Great teaching is about facilitating how to learn. As one student said to me recently, ‘You taught me to appreciate the process.’ I can’t express the notion any better.”

His work enables him to serve others, Jones says.

“Certain people throughout my life have directly influenced my path. To be in a position to pay that forward is an honor.”

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