One of Brigham Young University's professors received top national honors recently from a student-ranking Web site.
Professor Randy Bott, a religion teacher at the school, was named the top-ranked professor of 2008 by www.RateMyProfessors.com. Bott's victory stemmed from more than 170 ratings from his students on the site.
Despite the high honors, Bott said he is somewhat uncomfortable with the public acclaim, wishing to have less of the limelight on himself. Bott said the ranking is more of a credit to his students, who he said are more mature than he was at their age.
"I'm obviously not the best professor in the United States. That's a given," he said.
Bott said he simply teaches a lot of students every year and they have shown their gratitude by commenting on the Web site. They enjoy his class because they know he cares about their success, Bott said.
"The love of my life is the kids," he said. "I really, really enjoy the kids."
Bott said he spends four to six hours every day answering phone calls and e-mails from his students, which enables him to have a more personal touch with the students he teaches. Some other professors may simply not have as much time as he does to devote to the students after class, as his teacher's assistants do much of the grading for him.
A big factor in the rating may be the fact that students at BYU, and particularly his class, are devoted to what they are learning, Bott said. In his mission preparation class, the students are invested in the class and what it can give them in their daily lives, he said, so they are more satisfied than they may be in a required general education class.
Although Bott has continually had good reviews at the university, he said the high ranking on RateMyProfessors was a surprise to him. He pays more attention to the students' reaction in class than a Web site to determine if the material is sinking in.
"I was very surprised," he said. "I don't go to these to look at how I'm rated or anything like that."
One rating criterion in which Bott did not do well was the "hotness" rating, but the professor said he did not mind. Bott said the students' opinion of his teaching was much more important to him.
"If we are so caught up on the looks of somebody rather than the substance of their life, I think we've made a mistake," he said.
Michael Smart, a BYU spokesman, said he is glad for Bott and his success on the Web site, but said no rating system can fully encapsulate what is going on in the classroom. Smart said the recognition only confirms what students on campus have always known about the popular professor.
Nadia Reategui, a junior who took Bott's mission preparation class in 2007, said she enjoyed the class because Bott related well to students. He was not just teaching the class but was also concerned with the students' comprehension.
"He really cares about each of his students," she said.
Reategui said she rated Bott highly on the Web site and recommended him to several of her friends. His class was different from any other she took at the school, Reategui said, and she always made sure to be in class in order to hear his stories and lectures.
"I never wanted to miss a class -- ever," she said.
Carlo DiMarco, vice president of university relations for mtvU, which operates the site, said the rankings are meant to elevate professors who are inspiring to their students. DiMarco said organizers of the site wanted to "shout out" the professors who made a difference in their students' lives.
"I think it's done exactly what our best intentions were for this award," he said.