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Teaching excellence: Marc Cohen

Teaching assistant professor Marc Cohen brings a contagious enthusiasm into his classroom, inviting students to share his passion for English and comparative literature.

Marc Cohen
Marc Cohen in class February 26, 2018. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Marc Cohen, a teaching assistant professor of English and comparative literature, was a recipient of the 2018 Tanner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. Presented each year, the award recognizes excellence in inspirational teaching of undergraduate students, particularly first- and second-year students.

The Portland, Oregon native told us about his teaching experiences.

Who was the best teacher you ever had and why?

The best teacher I’ve ever had is Failure. Samuel Beckett said it best: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Describe an “Aha!” moment you had when learning how to teach students.

The moment I learned that I could assess student work not only for mastery, but also for evidence of growth, my entire approach changed. Students enter our classrooms with very different educational backgrounds, and not everyone is capable of achieving mastery in a single semester; on the other hand, all of our students are capable of growth.

Describe a time when you learned something from a student.

Don’t be afraid to ask people to help you achieve your dream. That’s what my student Adam did. He told me that he wanted to pursue a doctorate and wanted to know if it was OK for him to visit during office hours to get feedback on the papers he was writing for the course. For 15 weeks, that is exactly what he did. That semester, Adam transformed his writing, and today he is a successful doctoral student.

What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?

I worked as a production assistant on Terminator 2: Judgment Day. I still have my crew jacket and a Schwarzenegger-Terminator robotic finger.