9 Dec 2020

Professor Harvey Shapiro – How Professors Should Inspire

Post by Jordan Toplen

When it comes to getting a professor who can inspire you, it really is the luck of the draw when you get to university. I was fortunate enough to have the amazing Professor Harvey Shapiro during my time at college and he was someone who inspired me more than anyone else I have ever been taught by. There were just so many characteristics of the professor which differed greatly from the rest and it was within these details that I learned so much and felt so inspired. Here was exactly what the professor had which inspired me so greatly, and what I think that every great professor should be like.

Truly Challenging

A great professor should challenge its students, and that doesn’t just mean making it hard, it means actively engaging them and pushing them to reach their own goals. This is what the brilliant Professor Shapiro was so great at, he was able to truly challenge us by making the learning relative and by encouraging us to find solutions. This is what a great professor should do for its students.


Getting the balance right between being tough on your students and amiable enough to inspire is a very tough thing to do. This however is what the very best professors do, they understand when to be tough on the students and how to push them, and they understand when is the right time to be a friend and to work with the students. If a professor goes too far one way or another then students can either find the lessons too draconian or they can find that they use the professor and not do much work.


The gift that Professor Shapiro had was not just that he understood the best way to teach a class but he had this incredible ability to understand each of his students and treat them individually. This was what inspired me the most and it was this that really brought me out of my shell with regards to opening up my mind and learning what he was showing. No teacher or professor had done this with me before, made the learning personal, and in doing so Professor Shapiro was able to really get me to engage.


Making learning fun is something which you would usually talk about when discussing teaching younger children. When you think about it however, why is that we only use this phrase to talk about teaching kids? Why in fact don’t we discuss this for older students too? After all, we all like to have fun. This was something which my professor was easily able to grasp and he really would find ways of injecting some fun and some humor into what we were learning. No matter how old you are, when something becomes fun, it is far easier to engage with and you are much more likely to learn when you do so with a smile on your face.