Amanda Durik: It’s not magic, it’s everyday relationships

Amanda Durik
Amanda Durik

Amanda Durik had always considered being a teacher.

Raised in La Grange, Ky., she dove into teaching as a 17-year-old swimming instructor for the Red Cross.

Considering a career as a primary school teacher, Durik attended Centre College where she was introduced to psychology. Having always enjoyed math, she became amazed by the research involved with psychology, and a new passion was born.

“Psychology provides a healthy balance between working with ideas and numbers,” Durik said. “It’s interesting because the content involves real-world concepts we can get our heads around, and then quantifies those concepts so that we can test them with math.”

Durik, who earned her Ph.D. from University of Wisconsin-Madison, has co-authored numerous articles and been the recipient of multiple research and teaching awards.

After completing postdoctoral research at University of Michigan, Durik found her way to NIU in 2005 where she currently teaches Social and Personality Lab, and Group Processes.

Thomas Bunge, a former student of Durik’s, said her passion in the classroom is unparalleled.

“She brings an inspiring level of enthusiasm to her work,” Bunge said. “I’ve never met anyone else so happy to go to work in the morning. You can tell she really cares about her students.”

In the classroom, Durik said she believes the most important thing is to treat students with respect.

“It’s important to interact with students and treat them as individuals,” Durik said. “Being able to relate to them is a critical starting point. It’s not magic, it’s everyday relationships.”

Greg Waas, chair of the Department of Psychology, said Durik has spent her entire career engaging, challenging and enthralling students in the classroom, the laboratory and as a mentor and adviser.

“Dr. Durik is the epitome of the master scholar-teacher,” Waas said. “She both engages and inspires the students she works with every day, and her scholarship contributes to our understanding of effective teaching and student learning.”

For Durik, deciding what she enjoys most about teaching is a tough choice.

“I’m not sure if it’s pursuing the goal of having a student understand something for the first time, or the experience and satisfaction of knowing a student has grown,” Durik said. “Both experiences are what makes it enjoyable.”

Durik said that as an educator her role is to do her best for the students, and that receiving the Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award provides reassuring evidence that her efforts are focused in the right direction.

“One goes about their everyday lives doing their work and trying to do a good job,” Durik said. “This is like a People’s Choice Award, and it’s quite an honor to be recognized by the students.”

Durik resides in DeKalb with her husband, David, and her stepson, Alejandro.

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