Teacher of the Year 2020: Igor Martins

In 2016 I was entrusted with the noble task of teaching a small group of bachelor students. It was a single lecture on the contemporary economic history of Latin America. Before that, I have never entered a classroom as a teacher. After the lecture, I was hooked. I loved the experience!

I started to use every opportunity I had to manifest my desire to teach more. More. More! There is a proverb that says, “be careful what you wish for, you may just get it”. And boy did I get it! In 2019 I was entrusted with the biggest challenge in my life so far: to teach in the B.Sc. of Economy and Society. Except that this time it was not only to teach a single lecture. I was overseeing entire modules, reading lists, examinations, Canvas… For first-year students coming to their very first semester at Lund University! And although I was under the supervision of a senior scholar, Tobias Axelsson, to me it was as challenging as it could have gotten. Still, I relished every minute of it.

I am always looking for those “aha” moments. The moments when I realize my students managed to put two pieces of the puzzle together and, from that point onward, will never see things the same way. A new perspective was added… New knowledge! This is certainly my fuel. This keeps me going.

But make no mistake. As much as I try to make the environment as light as possible and to keep things as informal as possible, I expect the highest level of excellence from my students. To ensure that, I deliver my very best as well. I want you to respect my time, so I will dutifully respect yours. I want you to take the course seriously, so I will treat your education with the utmost seriousness. All within my limitations, of course. I am not a perfect educator and I am sure I have made many a mistake, without even realizing it at times. Yet, I am committed to improving and as long as my students are also committed to their improvement, we will certainly find many opportunities to learn together.

This is how this journey has been. Learning. My students may not realize it, but I am the one who learns the most even though I am tasked with teaching. In every lecture or seminar, I learn more about the content I am teaching, I learn more about myself and the way I communicate. But even if I cannot learn anything new about the course or myself, I can certainly learn something about my students. I end up seeing a lot of my younger self in each student. This also keeps me going.

Now, given that teaching is my passion, I cannot let this opportunity pass by without trying to teach anything. As I was reading the motivation behind my nomination as Teacher of the Year I came across the following sentence: “(…) any student who receives the zoom-link to his virtual classroom can consider themselves lucky”. Let me tell you something: I am the lucky one here. You see, imagine that you are not a student at Lund University but, somehow, we meet each other in any other context. Let us say in a park. I approach you by speaking about colonialism and economic change over time. I talk about the Dutch East India Company, about globalization, about the Spanish Empire, I urge you to read dozens of papers and…I go on for 2 whole hours! I doubt that any of you would pay attention to me because for all you know I might just be one complete lunatic speaking nonsense. Why would you even pay attention to this dude you randomly met? You would not. Now, it just so happens that you did not meet me for the first time in a park. You met me inside a classroom, and I was introduced to you as your teacher. Suddenly, the things I have to say matter! You take notes, you read the papers, you ask questions and ultimately listen to the things I am saying. I now have the chance to be heard, to influence people, and to effectively contribute to a larger process of change. Isn’t that wonderful? How many people can participate in other people’s intellectual and academic development daily? Very few, yet I am one of these lucky people.

Yes, you might still find yourself lucky to have me as a teacher but, believe me, I am the one who is truly lucky here. Thank you for your appreciation and for bestowing me the honor of being the Teacher of the Year.

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