Towson’s Top Teacher

Scarcity brings value.

Great professors don’t come around often. Occasionally they’re old and crazy. However, looks can be deceiving. Picture a middle-aged man with  a neat, tidy hair cut who generally wears khakis and collared shirts. He paces around the front of the classroom, and only his eyes looking through those glasses keep them awake at 9 a.m. He doesn’t seem so threatening, because he’s drawing their attention.

Dr. Thomas Rhoads is talked about in nothing but positive ways. From being engaging to a terrific public speaker, most students and colleagues admire him. Just across the hall is friend and colleague Dr. Manly’s office. Manly and Rhoads usually eat together on Fridays.

“I’ve never actually seen him teach, but he does have a good reputation,” said Manly.

Apparently Rhoads is great at giving advice. He is always available and willing to help students both with homework, studying, and planning ahead when selecting classes. He has also put forth his own personal time to invest in an innovative class participation tool: The i>clicker.

“He went through a process of finding the right kind of clicker. In addition, he had to figure out each new software and programming, with no extra pay for that individual investment,” Manly said.

The students love the clickers because they provide more incentive to attend class and participate without raising hands or speaking. Two students from one of Dr. Rhoads’ macro-economic classes shared their thoughts.

“He is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had,” Diana Ly said.  “Getting to know every student’s name mattered.”

Rhoads made it priority to memorize every student’s name from the start. He would begin every class the first week to test himself, causing students to crack smiles and chuckle a bit as he stumbled over last names and blanked on others. Surprisingly, he had those names down before two weeks of classes had gone by.

David Kaiser touched more on the simplicity of his teaching style.

“He’s approachable, easy going, knowledgeable, and punctual,” Kaiser said.

Rhoads mentioned that he wants the students to realize he is a normal guy. He’s honest and knows what he’s talking about regarding economics and how it applies outside the classroom. Kaiser appreciates that Rhoads doesn’t expect them to know everything about macro-economics, because he’s there to learn from him.

“I’m wise enough to realize people won’t remember anything from the class, but examples will be remembered and that allows connections to be made in the real world outside of class,” Rhoads said.

Beyond the classroom and his small, cozy office, Rhoads is an active runner, spends a lot of time with his family, and happens to know a lot about minor league baseball.

“I ran a marathon this past March in Washington D.C.,” Rhoads said.

After only picking up running January of 2010, strong will and commitment led the charge to conquer a marathon in below-freezing weather conditions. Rhoads joked about being an old man running in the bitter cold. Truthfully, he gives off the impression that he’s currently at his prime.

He prides himself on setting high goals and accepting tough challenges. His daughter was actually the one who claimed he wasn’t a real runner until he could complete a marathon.

“You have to want to do it, and be passionate about it,” he said.

Rhoads works hard as a runner and professor. It’s hard to find teachers like Dr. Rhoads who are capable of teaching seriously while still maintaining a loose environment in the classroom.

“In all my years of teaching, I’ve learned to keep it real,” Rhoads said.

He is engaging, active, and absolutely loving his work. Whether it’s teaching or conducting research, Rhoads always wears a smile on his face.

“When I leave my house to come here I say I’m going to school,” he said. “I really enjoy coming here and I’m happy I get to go to work.”

This is a professor who claims he has the best job in the world. Not many people will say that as proudly as Rhoads.

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