Texas Tech Law Professor Recognized for Teaching Excellence
Wendy-Adele Humphrey's classroom creativity and ‘hustlin'’ attitude earned her the recognition of Texas Tech University System's highest faculty honor.
Wendy-Adele Humphrey wanted to teach.
That’s what she told a reporter from the Carlsbad Current-Argus newspaper a week before starting third grade.
But after getting two college degrees and spending a short time teaching seventh graders, she knew that middle school was not her teaching path.
“I checked to see if my law school application was still good,” she said.
After getting her law degree from Texas Tech University, Humphrey became an attorney and eventually a partner with an Amarillo firm.
She was happy practicing law in Amarillo when she got a call encouraging her to apply for a teaching job at Texas Tech’s School of Law.
Humphrey joined her alma mater’s faculty in 2007.
“I could always go back to practice law, but took the risk and came as visiting professor. Eleven years later, I’m glad I took a risk,” she said.
“It’s a good marriage between my passion for law and education,” said Humphrey, now an associate dean.
It’s a great marriage for Texas Tech, too.
Humphrey was awarded the Chancellor’s Council Distinguished Teaching and Research Award — the most prestigious honor given to faculty members throughout the Texas Tech University System.
“...for them to recognize me for something I love to do makes me emotional.”
She received $5,000 and a medallion for her excellence, funded by annual membership gifts to the Chancellor’s Council. A giving society that supports the priorities of Chancellor Robert Duncan, the council impacts student lives through scholarships, recognizes faculty achievement and encourages excellence across all four system universities.
“It’s the pinnacle of teaching,” she said.
“I love teaching…to be honored for something you love doing is rewarding. Not only do I teach here, but because I went to school here my loyalty to this institution is second to none. And for them to recognize me for something I love to do makes me emotional.”
Humphrey moved to Lubbock in 1995 to attend law school before changing her mind to pursue a master’s in education.
“I knew Texas Tech had a stellar reputation with academics,” she said.
After what she calls a three-year detour as a seventh grade teacher, she landed at the law school.
Even though she’s been in legal education for more than a decade, Humphrey said, “At heart, I will always be a trial lawyer, a litigator. I’m a true plaintiff’s lawyer. And what does a trial lawyer do? They educate the judge and jury.”
Wearer of many hats
She also does more than teach.
A sign outside her office reads:
Interim Associate Dean of Admissions
Associate Dean for Educational Effectiveness
Director of TTU Pre-Law Academy
Professor of Law
“I wear about ten different hats around here,” she said.
She’s also active outside the law school — in the local community and legal community.
A nameplate on her bookshelf reads “Every Day I’m Hustlin’.”
How does she keep “hustlin’?”
“I make sure I get my sleep,” she said. “A productive day starts with a good night’s sleep. I’m very good at prioritizing, I have good time-management skills and know what needs to get done when. I’m very focused,” she said.
Why she loves teaching
Humphrey lists three things when asked why she loves teaching.
“One, it helps my own need for intellectual stimulation. I have to know my subject to teach it,” she said, adding having to stay atop changes in the law “provides food for the brain.”
Second is an outlet for her creativity.
“I’m able to show my authentic self through teaching. I dress up in characters, I do different things to stimulate learning. That’s my personality and I’m able to let that shine in teaching. That makes it fun,” she said.
Dress up as?
“Elle Woods,” she said of Reese Witherspoon’s character in the 2001 movie, “Legally Blonde.”
Humphrey’s also dressed up as a chef.
“I stir up a legal argument,” she said. “I actually make liquid lasagna in a blender to make a point.”
At Pre-Trial Brief Boot Camp, every class is a different kind of workout.
“We’ll have a boxing class when we talk about how to knock out the other side’s argument,” she said.
These are some of the examples that won Humphrey an award for creative excellence in teaching in 2014.
Then there’s her giant pencil.
More than three-feet long, it was meant as a gag gift when she was practicing law in Amarillo.
“I took it as a compliment. Around the bottom are some cases I won solely on my briefing,” she said.
Now it’s a teaching tool.
“I tell my students to strive for their own giant pencil. During Pre-Law Academy I’ll walk around with it. They find it entertaining,” she said.
The third reason she loves teaching is mentoring students.
“To form a true mentor relationship with students and know you’re making a difference in someone’s life is an amazing feeling.”
“Not just teach them, but to mentor them and see light-bulb moments. To see the excitement in their eyes when they get a job. They come to me for advice on law school things and a lot of non-law school things. To form a true mentor relationship with students and know you’re making a difference in someone’s life is an amazing feeling,” she said.
And when those students go into the legal profession, Humphrey wants them to be ethical, professional and knowledgeable.
“Because I serve on the Texas Board of Disciplinary Appeals I see the number of attorneys who, for whatever reason, neglect cases, are sloppy with cases, make poor decisions,” she said.
Humphrey pointed out with more than 100,000 licensed attorneys in Texas, a small percentage comes before the board.
“But when you’re exposed to seeing that type of behavior you don’t want anyone from your law school to ever make those poor decisions or be sloppy. The reputation of our law school grads and what they contribute to the legal profession reflects on this institution, and you want them to make the right decisions and do it with the right knowledge,” she said.
Then she added, with a smile: “And pass the bar. That’s the first step.”