The rugs in Timothy Ryan’s office are worn thin from his students constantly stopping in, seeking expertise from the welcoming, yet relentlessly challenging associate English professor.
Ryan, Ph.D., has had an open-door policy since he came to NIU in 2007. It seems his light is always on, letting students know he is there to help with papers, give advice and lend guidance when they need it.
He never gives them the easy way out, encouraging his students to dig deeper to improve their writing and face their academic challenges. These often include his intimidating writing assignments — and honest critiques of those assignments.
Tony Blanco, a 41-year-old English major, got overwhelmed by the stress of having a full-time job, mortgage and family. Secretly considering dropping out, he emailed Ryan as he struggled to complete an essay.
Ryan responded with encouragement, praising Blanco for his effort and giving him confidence. Ultimately, after many revisions, Blanco earned an A — both on the paper and in the class — and learned about himself through Ryan’s compassion and intuitive instruction.
“Dr. Ryan believed in me when I didn’t’ believe in myself,” Blanco said. “He did what he does best — read between the lines of what I was saying and drawing out the best of me.”
“Dr. Ryan is out here changing lives. He is out here making a difference by showing students they are smarter, more creative and talented than they think they are.”
These qualities and sentiments, echoed by many of Ryan’s students over the years, helped him earn a Presidential Excellence in Undergraduate Instruction award from NIU in 2019.
“I am so honored and humbled that the students think my teaching is worthy of this award,” Ryan said.