ASU professors lecture, laugh at Funniest Teachers Contest

Tara Franks, a fourth-year doctorate student in communications, laughs at a story at the ASU Project Humanities Funniest Teacher Contest at the Memorial Union, Monday, Sept. 15, 2014. Project Humanities organized the contest as a means of recognizing and promoting professors who use humor in the classroom to engage their students. (Photo by Ben Moffat) Tara Franks, a fourth-year doctorate student in communications, laughs at a story at the ASU Project Humanities Funniest Teacher Contest at the Memorial Union, Monday, Sept. 15, 2014. Project Humanities organized the contest as a means of recognizing and promoting professors who use humor in the classroom to engage their students. (Photo by Ben Moffat)

Some of the funniest teachers at ASU gathered in the Memorial Union on Monday night to present the second annual funniest teacher award.

Students nominated and voted for a group of five finalists made up of instructors and professors at the Funniest Teachers Contest. Students had to submit up to a 100-word nomination letter of the professor or instructor of their choosing. The event was hosted by Project Humanities.

ASU English professor Neal Lester is the director of Project Humanities and helped moderate the event. Lester said the event started as a Project Humanities promotion to help spread some of the organization’s message. “Rather than defining humanities, we talk about doing humanities,” Lester said.

Lester said the makeup of Project Humanities isn’t just a certain major or on a specific campus, but all over the University as a whole.

Among the attendees, was last year's winner and fourth-year graduate student teaching associate Tara Franks at the Hugh Downs School of Communication. Franks said when she was nominated last year, it meant a lot to her.

“At first I thought it was a joke,” Franks said. “I wasn’t really voted for anything in high school.”

Neal Lester, an English professor and founding director of Project Humanities, displays a trophy at the ASU Project Humanities Funniest Teacher Contest at the Memorial Union on Monday, Sept. 15, 2014. Project Humanities organized the contest as a means of recognizing and promoting professors who use humor in the classroom to engage their students. (Photo by Ben Moffat) Neal Lester, an English professor and founding director of Project Humanities, displays a trophy at the ASU Project Humanities Funniest Teacher Contest at the Memorial Union on Monday, Sept. 15, 2014. Project Humanities organized the contest as a means of recognizing and promoting professors who use humor in the classroom to engage their students. (Photo by Ben Moffat)

Franks said she was flattered when more students voted for her this year; however, it’s against the rules to be nominated two years in a row.

The event kicked off with a series of videos that featured the nominees that included an associate professor and the first tandem nomination of funny professor duo in contest history.

For about an hour, there was a question and answer panel that featured questions about the teachers' pasts, current classrooms and how they use humor in their lectures. During the panel, laughs erupted as one of the nominees fell out of their chair.

The live voting process began as about 20 guests etched their votes on a tiny square ballot.

Finally, the winners were announced as the lights in the room dimmed and a drum roll began. After the pool of online votes were tallied and live votes counted, the winner was announced.

School of Life Sciences Professor Michael Angilletta won the contest. Angilletta was called in via Skype from South Africa to be announced the winner at 4 a.m. at the time of the announcement.

Angilletta said he was excited when his name was called.

“To me, it was validation that we were doing the right thing,” Angilletta said.

Angilletta said when he was growing up, his humor was a reflection of his funny personality.

“This is the greatest achievement of my long life,” Angilletta said.

 

Reach the reporter at jwilli62@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @JonWilliams_23

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CORRECTION: Because of a reporting error, a previous version of this article incorrectly stated Michael Angilletta's title. This version has been updated with the correct title.


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