Dr. Luke Naeher vividly recalls the day one of his nieces, then about 8 or 9 years old, said something like— “Uncle Luke, are you ever going to be done with school?” He was approaching the end of his Ph.D. and had been in college or graduate school for her entire life. Fortunately, the answer to this question was yes, but her question underscores the fact that her uncle had spent many years in school, at one level or another, and as such, he had many former coaches, teachers, professors, TAs, and mentors who he looks back to with tremendous gratitude for the invaluable roles they have played in his life, including shaping him into the teacher he is today.
Those who have taught and mentored Naeher throughout his years in high school, college, graduate school, and beyond have contributed to his classroom success. Through three straight years of math in high school, Dan Drance taught Naeher how to push students beyond what they believe they can do and hold them accountable to achieve what they are capable of in the classroom and beyond. As a freshman at The King’s College, his English professor Dr. Richard Weir, passionately and authentically modeled what a privilege (and a blast) it was to teach college students. As a junior at Cornell University, his Agricultural Economics professor Dr. Dan Sisler, blinded at age 25 while serving in the Air Force during the Korean War, taught him about perseverance, overcoming adversity, priorities, and balance – all in a real and richly authentic way that he had never before quite understood. As a masters student at SUNY Stony Brook, Dr. Bruce Brownawell taught him the value and importance of taking risks on a students and giving them a chance. As a masters student at Harvard University, Dr. Jack Spengler modeled how to teach graduate students and lead a department with energy, passion, humor, excellence, and a steadfast positive attitude. These individuals, and many others, including his incredible Ph.D. chair/mentor Dr. Brian Leaderer, have impacted his teaching in countless invaluable ways.
Whether in a classroom in Athens, GA, at a campout class trip in the San Juan Islands, or in a hands-on research experience in the highlands of Peru, Dr. Naeher strives to have an effective and enjoyable approach to teaching in First Year Odyssey Seminars, graduate-level classes, and everything in between. His approach to teaching is to create an environment where students want to be in class, are strongly motivated to come prepared to class so they can meaningfully contribute to discussion, and feel comfortable and safe fully jumping into class discussions to share their thoughts, insights, and opinions. Dr. Naeher strives to find a healthy and strong balance between teaching foundational material and then builds on that material with the students to apply it to real world situations. Through this, students can begin to truly understand the importance and value of the foundational material they are learning and how it applies in direct, real, and relevant ways to every day challenges in the real world.
Dr. Naeher’s students appreciate his pedagogical style. Student Kabiru Sunmola asserts, “His style of teaching which involves challenging you to think big in all topics and creating a sense of belonging for students in his classroom is really helpful.” Another student, Tiffany Eberhard states, “Dr. Naeher’s enthusiasm and energy in the classroom is contagious. He is always smiling and willing to help students.”
This profile was originally published on the CTL website.
Posted September 21, 2015.