For creative teacher, it's always first and goal

Published: October 24 2006


Teaching middle school boys the ins and outs of opera may seem an overwhelming task to some. Not to Linda Behar-Horenstein, who tackled the task much as a linebacker might.

“I told them that the quality of the opera production would only be as good as the third string quarterback. They were mesmerized,” Behar-Horenstein said of one of her first teaching assignments at Loyola University, where she received her doctorate.

Today, 14 years later, the same creativity Behar-Horenstein used to make opera relevant to middle school boys has been put to good use at the University of Florida. As a professor in the College of Education, Behar-Horenstein said the most important role of any instructor is to let students know what is being taught and why, and its application outside the classroom. In this way, her students and future educators learn critical thinking skills that they, in turn, can pass on to their students.

“I am vastly interested in how people perceive and use curriculum and instruction,” she said. “Especially in seeing how the instruction develops critical thinking skills in students.”

Behar-Horenstein’s passion for teaching has led to her induction into UF’s Academy of Distinguished Teaching Scholars, an honor awarded to faculty by a committee of peers.

As one of five new academy members this year, Behar-Horenstein will serve for three years on the faculty development advisory board, offering suggestions to improve curriculum, teaching styles and critical thinking skills, and developing programs and workshops that enhance the professional careers and experiences of faculty.

“I am honored to have been given this award,” Behar-Horenstein said. “With it, I hope to see the nature of teaching across this campus transformed. We need to get students to think critically, to look beyond their grade point average.”

From teaching middle school boys to love opera to getting university students to think on their feet, Behar-Horenstein is always stepping outside the box. Now at UF she is doing research in curriculum development, teaching faculty how to teach and instructing students how to become critical thinkers.

“I am getting to do the kind of work I always dreamed of doing,” she said. “In my field, you never arrive; you are always learning. And that is what I find irresistible about it.”


Cory Frederick, 352-846-3903