VIDEO: UK French Professor Motivated to Pay it Forward

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 8, 2018) — A desire to "pay it forward" drives Leon Sachs II to try to change the lives of the students he teaches each and every day.

Sachs, who teaches in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages, Literatures and Cultures of the UK College of Arts and Sciences, says when he was in college, a professor opened his eyes to the value of studying. Today, he hopes to do the same for his own students. That's one of many reasons students nominated him to win the 2018 Great Teacher Award.

In addition to his admiration for his professor’s language and research skills, UK junior Jourdan Owens believes that the time Sachs spent living in France improved his talent, “as such (he) can speak accurately to a variety of French mannerisms, customs and the French way of life.” Sachs encourages his students to speak and write in French as much as possible, and to make liberal use of a translating dictionary and student essays written entirely in French. “He stresses that it is far more important to speak haltingly, but still in fact speak, than it is to not attempt to use that 'muscle' of forming coherent thoughts in a new language at all.” The students’ attempts are always met with the utmost respect and patience. “Dr. Sachs is incredibly invested in the continued success and growth of his students. He makes himself available to talk over difficulties … and devotes a large amount of time getting to know the particular strengths and weaknesses of each student.”

Watch the video above to discover why Owens says Sachs is so deserving of this award.

Award recipients were honored at the UK Alumni Association Great Teacher Award Recognition Dinner in late January, at the Hyatt Regency in Lexington. They were recognized during the Vanderbilt University vs. Kentucky men’s basketball game later that evening as well.

The Great Teacher Award, started in 1961, is the longest-running University of Kentucky award recognizing teaching. In order to receive the award, educators must first be nominated by a student. The UK Alumni Association Great Teacher Award Committee, in cooperation with the student organization Omicron Delta Kappa, then makes the final selections. Recipients receive an engraved plaque and monetary reward.

The UK Alumni Association is a membership supported organization committed to fostering lifelong engagement among alumni, friends, the association and the university. For more information about the UK Alumni Association or to become a member, visit or call 1-800-269-2586.

This is a photo of Leon Sachs II, winner of the 2018 UK Great Teacher Award.
Leon Sachs II, winner of a 2018 UK Great Teacher Award.

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