The Rewards of Teaching

I recently received information about one of my former students.  It reminded me once again that one might easily overlook1 one of the most rewarding2 aspects3 of teaching as a career.  The most amazing thing to me is that I did not anticipate this when I began my career in teaching and research4 in biological science.  I did recognize that I would be rewarded5 both for my research efforts and for teaching, but I did not know how pleasant it would be to hear of and share the joy of one’s former students in their professional lives in research and teaching in the sciences. This news reminds me that one of the greatest rewards of teaching is to learn of the subsequent6 professional success of one’s former students.


Pam Soltis, a former student at Central College about thirty years ago, just received recognition7 at the national level for the research which she and her husband, Doug Soltis, have just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences8.  This is indeed a high honor, because PNAS publications are by invitation only9, upon the recommendation10 of a member of the National Academy of Science in the U.S, an elite group11 of scientists.  Pam and Doug’s research reveals that diversity12 in plants occurred in a relatively short13 time of about 5 million years.  This “Big Bang14 is an important fact.


Flowering plants are known to have existed for more than 130 million years.  The Soltis’ work is based on gene analysis15 in the DNA of chloroplasts16, the small objects in green plants which allow them to use light to produce sugars as a result of photosynthesis17.


I know that at least twenty of my former students have achieved similar recognition in quite a diverse number of areas of science, and I realize that this is a greater reward for me than the financial compensation18 and the public recognition by my peers19 and my administrators. I suspect20 that there are many others as well, who I am not aware of, who have also achieved success in their professions, both in the sciences and in other fields.


How does one measure satisfaction from one’s career? At least for me, and I realize now that the same is true for many others: one can take great pleasure in the recognition that one has made some sort of difference in the lives of others.  I wonder why it took me so long to recognize this?  Both of my parents were teachers and I know they appreciated the fact that their teaching was appreciated by their former students.  Perhaps it is the major reason why the teaching vocation21 continues to attract people into a career that certainly will not make them rich or famous.  At the very least, I hope this is as true for other teachers as it has been and is for me. [473 words]





1. overlook: fail to notice something, or not see how important it is (忽视).

2. rewarding: giving satisfaction, pleasure, or profit (值得的,有意义的,有回报的).

3. aspects: various parts of the whole; different phases of something (方面).

4. research: the process of collecting information and of looking for and finding the cause of something, or the nature of something (研究).

5. reward:报答,报偿,奖赏

6. subsequent: following after something else; coming next in time or place (随后的).

7. recognition: public respect and thanks for someone’s work or achievements (表扬,表彰).

8. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: the journal published by the National Academy of Science; probably the most prestigious journal in the United States for reports of significant research (国家科学院公报).

9. PNAS publications are by invitation only: 只有受邀请者才能在国家科学院公报上发表文章。

10. recommendation: a supportive letter written to acknowledge the value of a person or piece of research, work, etc. (推荐信).

11. elite group: a group of the highest stature, the best of its kind (精英人群).

12. diversity: the fact that very different people or things exist within a group or place (多样性).

13. relatively: in comparison with a similar thing, person, group etc. (相比较地).

14. Big Bang: an explosive development, very rapid or fast, meaning that it occurred in a rather short time (爆炸式的快速发展,指在短时间内发生的变化).

15. gene analysis: study of the genetic makeup of a living organism; in this case, the genetic makeup of DNA found in the chloroplasts of a plant cell (基因分析,对有机物的基因组成的研究,此处指的是在植物细胞的叶绿体中发现的脱氧核糖核酸的基因组成).

16. chloroplasts: the elliptical small bodies found within plant cells which contain the pigment chlorophyll, and which permit plants to carry out photosynthesis (叶绿体,系植物细胞内的很小的椭圆形物体,它含有叶绿素并能使植物进行光合作用).

17. photosynthesis: 光合作用

18. compensation: payment for work done (补偿).

19. peers: people who belong to the same social or professional group as another person (同辈,同事,同等地位的人).

20. suspect: think or believe that something is so (觉得……属实).

21. vocation: a specific profession or type of work which one pursues (工作,职业).

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