Below are links to letters from colleagues and students describing my capacity as a teacher. Two letters come from my department chair, Eystein Dahl, who, in addition to recommending me on behalf of the Department of Language and Culture, has been following my course in the use of statistics in linguistics during Spring 2017 and thus had numerous opportunities to observe my teaching. Another colleague, Lene Antonsen, followed this course in 2016 and provides a second letter describing this course. I have two letters from colleagues with whom I team-teach Russian courses at UiT: Hanne M. Eckhoff and Svetlana Sokolova. Steven Clancy, my former PhD student and currently the Director of the Slavic Languages program at Harvard University, provides the perspective of a colleague and co-author of two of my textbooks. Robert J. Reynolds is my most recent PhD student, Max Bäckström is my current MA student, James McDonald is a current BA student, and four exchange students from Moscow give an international perspective.
Although of course the letters speak for themselves, I offer some brief reflections on their contents here, especially in relation to the elusive “aha” moment that is crucial to my teaching philosophy. In his letter on behalf of the department, Eystein Dahl puts forward an ambitious plan to build up our department as a national resource with an international reputation and to apply for a Center of Excellence in Teaching. Given the outstanding quality and collaborative attitude of our colleagues under Eystein’s leadership, I am very optimistic about the future of this plan and hope that my candidacy as a meritorious teacher will contribute to its success. Eystein Dahl and Lene Antonsen describe the newest course I have designed at UiT, HIF 3082 Quantitative Methods in Linguistics, as consisting of well-structured classes that give students the opportunity to work hands-on with real language data that I provide, and also to get feedback from me both in and outside of class, as well as from each other and from an external expert. Both letters further highlight the fact that students in the course go on to use statistical methods in their MA and PhD projects. I take all this to mean that I am providing at least some “aha” moments in that course. I see also a relationship between my own passion for the topic as a researcher and my teaching, and both Eystein and Lene point to my focus on research-based teaching, a theme reiterated by Steven Clancy and Robert Reynolds. Hanne M. Eckhoff, who has given a guest lecture in this course, emphasizes its innovative nature. Hanne, who also team-teaches with us in Russian, states that we have an unusually collaborative and collective approach to teaching which has made it easy for her to fit in comfortably with the group. Svetlana Sokolova continues the theme of research-based teaching and involvement of students in research and pedagogical projects, citing her own experience as a co-creator of our Exploring Emptiness database and website, and the establishment of Russian linguistics at UiT as an internationally acknowledged program of excellence, drawing students of all levels to Tromsø to share in the “aha” moments. Steven Clancy describes me as a tireless and influential “teacher of teachers” with a profound impact not only on my own students, but on the field as a whole and the many students that I will never know personally but whom I have reached through my textbooks and research. Robert Reynolds shares my enthusiasm for research that benefits pedagogy and the representation of the frontier of knowledge in course materials. Rob conveys the excitement of his discovery that the known “triggers” for the grammatical category of Russian aspect are actually quite rare in actual use (available in just 2% of running text!), which was a great “aha” moment for the two of us, when we realized this means that existing Russian textbooks are missing 98% of what we need to teach the students. We are currently working on a grant proposal aimed at unlocking the rest of this mystery. Rob also describes me as a dedicated PhD supervisor who supported him without stifling his creative impulses and even claims that my textbooks and websites “revolutionize grammar instruction”. My current MA student, Max Bäckström, describes me as a helpful and knowledgeable supervisor who gives him plenty of attention and inspires his research. James McDonald, a student in our first-year Russian course, describes how I help students to make the leap from the sterile classroom to the messy realities of authentic Russian from the Russian National Corpus, a chance for many “aha” moments, as well as his role in creating an on-going research-based resource, the Learner’s Constructicon of Russian, an experience that is building his confidence as a learner and user of Russian. Finally, four Russian students from the Higher School of Economics in Moscow on exchange at UiT Spring 2017 share their experience in a course I am currently team-teaching with Tore Nesset, and I am gratified to see many “aha” moments in their description of the projects and discussions we have shared both in and out of class.