I absolutely love teaching and research in Ecology. I consider myself lucky to have experience in both teaching and research. Scientific research is, to me, an exciting, captivating, and extraordinary activity. I imagine most other scientists will understand my point of view: you work for hours on end to extract some morsel of previously unknown knowledge, analyze every aspect of it and show it excitedly to your colleagues who can appreciate its value. For that moment you know something that no one else in the world ever knew, saw things that no one had ever seen. You take that little bit of knowledge and say "Here's why this is important. Here's why the world should care." I live for that moment in research; even if your result was "Well, no, my hypothesis was wrong" you are refining your field, narrowing down the unknown.
While working towards my master's degree I paid the rent by working for the tutoring department as a tutor and success coach, teaching environmental studies at a two-year career college, and later by working for the biology department as a teaching assistant. My early experience with students has strengthened my own knowledge of biology and ecology and my skill as a teacher. I spent August 2012 - May 2013 teaching as an instructor for Bowling Green State University's Department of Environment and Sustainability. In this position I was able to "go out and get muddy" on a regular basis with my students.
At BGSU I taught courses in introductory environmental studies (ENVS 1010) environmental field and laboratory methods (ENVS 3100) and environmental field experience (ENVS 4930). ENVS 1010 is a lecture based course with an environmental service component. As such I spent several weekends with student in the Wood County Park District planting trees or pulling garlic mustard, and discussing the importance of those activities with my students. ENVS 3100 was a challenge and a delight. Challenging because I redesigned the entire course structure, implementing techniques and methods that had previously not been utilized; delightful because nearly every week for the Fall semester of 2012 I spent time in the sun and rain getting muddy and mosquito bitten while teaching basic methods in field ecology. ENVS 4930 was an opportunity for me to teach about a habitat I've never actually seen, and later visit it with my students to examine the ecosystem for ourselves. We camped for one week in Big Lagoon State Park near Pensacola, Florida and explored the different coastal and inland habitats of the surrounding area.
I believe the best teachers are those who are passionate about the subject they are teaching, and want to pass on that enthusiasm to their students. Students need to learn beyond the fundamentals of the course, to develop skills for critical thinking, writing, and problem solving, that they will use in their future coursework and careers. Effective teaching and excellence in higher education are necessary to create a successful society. Teaching the content is important, but providing context and developing enthusiasm in students is critical. I am passionate about ecological education, for the public and for students at institutions. I am motivated by the critical need for action for the planet. It is only through education that positive environmental changes can begin to take place.
As an undergraduate I was not the best student, and my transition into adulthood was, at best, tumultuous. I tended to take on more than I could handle (sometimes 20 + credit hours, while holding down several part-time jobs) and my gpa suffered as a result. I did, however, graduate with a bachelor's of science in biology, minoring in both physics and chemistry. I excelled in laboratory courses hands on learning is definitely my first choice, and part of why I appreciate research so much today. When I began working on my master's degree I learned to be a better student, although still not the "perfect student." I believe that my experience as a teacher has helped me understand a great deal of where I "went wrong" along the way, and the struggles I had were essential in shaping my approach to teaching. I am a better student today because I struggled my way through science. We all learn from our mistakes.
I believe that my struggle to succeed in science can make me a better teacher because I truly understand how difficult it can be to understand and work through courses in science, while also juggling life, part-time jobs, and family obligations.
I look forward to working with new students!
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Cleveland State University - Bachelor of Science, Biology, General
Graduate Degree: Cleveland State University - Master of Science, Environmental Science
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Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
I believe that teaching and learning should be active and engaging. By teaching how concepts are related and using real world examples, I set students up for long-term success.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
In a first session with a student, I first try to assess what method of learning works best for that student. If the student requires multiple sessions, we will discuss a plan to tackle the material, set a few goals, and begin working. I often use a combination of real world examples/applications, practice questions, and videos of demonstrations/animations to help the student master a topic.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
I can help to foster independent learning by setting achievable and realistic goals with the student and teaching study/success skills throughout the lessons. By helping students use the tools they have (such as textbooks) and by showing them how to find information in external sources, I encourage active and independent learning.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
I work hard to get to know my students and find ways to make a subject interesting for them. When they can relate to a topic and learn why it matters, they are much more motivated to learn.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
New concepts can be difficult to understand for anyone. With a student, I have them read the given "textbook" explanation of the concept, paraphrase it in their own words, and look for examples that demonstrate this new concept. By talking through examples, pointing out related concepts, and working through practice problems, the student will master the concept relatively quickly.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
I work with the student to read through a passage slowly, stopping to identify and define new terms, and paraphrasing each sentence as we go.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
Every student is different, all of them appreciate patience. By taking the time to build a rapport with a student, I put them at ease and communication becomes much easier. I ask every student what their goals are for a session, we identify what tasks might be more difficult, and we decide where my expertise and assistance are best applied.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
Creating enthusiasm for a topic a student is not interested in is simply a matter of finding out what the student is interested in and presenting the topic on those terms. This can mean finding real life applications, or creating practice problems about zombies, whichever works.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
I often ask a student to teach the topic back to me. After reviewing the subject and working on practice problems, most do this with ease. This is by far the best way I have found to identify the one or two details the student might be misunderstanding.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Show them their own success. Start a student off at a level of difficulty that you believe they can handle, give them the tools they need to find the answers, practice those problems, and encourage them every step of the way. "Math isn't scary! We just did math on that last problem, and you did great!"
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
First, I speak with the student, they very often know what they need the most help with. I give a range of practice problems for their subject with different levels of difficulty and work to identify what level the student is at. Then, we can start at that level and work our way up until the student is proficient and confident in the subject.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
Everyone learns differently. By incorporating different learning styles into my tutoring, I can identify early on what works best for a student and adapt any future sessions to include more visuals, more hands-on practice, or more focus on memorization.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
This largely depends on the student and the subject. I start every session with a notebook and pen for my own notes. I may incorporate practice problems, YouTube videos (especially animations of biological concepts), flashcards, and drawings to help a student learn.