The rewards of a teacher

by Chuck Brown, UNMC public affairs | November 17, 2008

picture disc.
Clockwise from left: Brian Domack, president of the College of Pharmacy's P4 Class, Victoria Roche, College of Pharmacy Dean Courtney Fletcher, Pharm.D., and Edward "Ted" Roche, Ph.D., at the college's fall honors convocation. Dr. Roche received the 2008 College of Pharmacy Distinguished Teaching Award at the ceremony.
To a teacher, there's just something special about being recognized by your students.

The tears in the eyes of Edward "Ted" Roche, Ph.D., said as much last month when the associate professor in the department of pharmaceutical sciences received the 2008 College of Pharmacy Distinguished Teaching Award at the college's fall honors convocation.

Surrounded by co-workers, students and other well-wishers, Dr. Roche had to gather himself before he could actually verbally express himself, although his body language had already made it clear how he felt.

"My students would be surprised to hear this, but I'm speechless," Dr. Roche said, echoing a comment made a year prior by Paul Dobesh, Pharm.D., the associate professor in the pharmacy practice department who received the award in 2007.

The award is given annually by College of Pharmacy students to one teacher. I've covered its presentation three times now and each winner, Drs. Roche and Dobesh, and Jeffrey Baldwin, Pharm.D., associate professor in the department of pharmacy practice, all commented on what an honor it was to be recognized by their students.

This seemed interesting to me. It's one thing to be recognized by one's peers or contemporaries, people whose opinions are based on knowledge of a particular field or subject.

But what is it about validation from students that turns these highly-educated, well-respected academicians into, well, something akin to Jello?

To find, out I checked in with Dr. Roche.

Turns out, it's about relationships.

"A friend of mine told me the other day, 'Your job keeps you young,' and I know it does," said Dr. Roche, who was struck with polio at age 14 and now uses a scooter and a cane to move. "Most people in my polio cohort retired 20 years ago and are homebound. Me, I can teach forever."

And he just might, too.

Behind his vigor, he said, are the students. He loves working with them. He loves to see them succeed and knowing that he helped them along their path. He loves to hear from them years after they graduate to learn what's going on in their lives.

"It means everything," Dr. Roche said. "The students are the reason I do everything I do. And this award shows me that they see value in what I do."

Dr. Roche started at UNMC 42 years ago. He taught full time as a pharmaceutical sciences faculty member until 1980 when he was appointed assistant dean for academic affairs. In 1985, he was promoted to associate dean.

"It means everything. The students are the reason I do everything I do. And this award shows me that they see value in what I do."

Edward "Ted" Roche, Ph.D.

He worked in the dean's office and taught part time until 2003, when he retired as an administrator to return to the classroom full time.

He currently teaches medicinal chemistry and the chemistry component of the introduction to pharmaceutical science course. He also coordinates a professional development course that introduces the college's students to a number of professional concepts.

The move back to full-time teaching has been very rewarding and the increased interaction with the students has been what he's enjoyed the most.

"I really work hard to have them learn things, not just memorize facts," Dr. Roche said. "I stress the importance of understanding principles, because I find that while people may forget facts, they remember principles.

"To see them grasp those principles and succeed - that means the world to me."

One need only have seen the tears in his eyes at convocation to know he meant what he said.