I believe stories are powerful. This is probably because I was an English major. Across cultures and generations, stories have been used to convey concepts and ideas in a poignant way. I would like to share a few stories that helped form the four components of my teaching philosophy.
In order to receive an AA degree from my local community college, I was required to take a lab science class—something I dreaded so much that I had managed to avoid it after my sophomore year of high school. I was terrified that I would fail. However, I was lucky enough to sign up for a class being taught by a professor who passionately loved the subject of Biology. Her lively, enthusiastic personality were the key to my success in college science. She would often stop mid-lecture and ask, “Isn’t that cool?” in a very excited way. Her enthusiasm and passion were contagious. She taught me to be excited about the topic I'm teaching.
After I transferred to university, I signed up for a Women Writers class. The class required a great deal of reading and it was difficult to keep up. Yet nearly every class I remember hearing my professor say things like, “As I was reading this last night” or “last night I was looking up articles related to this topic.” She was a tenured professor who has been teaching for over fifteen years yet she still took the time to read books again, scan articles, or do further research to plan our class sessions. She taught me to be extremely knowledgeable on the subject material.
The final semester before I graduated, I took a Literary Theory class. Sometimes I wish it had been the first class I took in college because it was such a great experience and we discussed so many of the “big” questions of life. It is the only class I have ever taken in which the class spontaneously started clapping and cheering for our professor on the last day. One of the reasons I think the term was so successful is that the teacher allowed us plenty of interaction and discussion time. She taught me how important it is to allow students to discuss the topic because this verbal processing can lead to greater insights/revelations about the material.
I have also been lucky enough to interact with many of my professors outside of the classroom. I still keep in contact with the professor who taught me in my first college class ten years ago. I remember sitting in his office one afternoon. Somehow we got on the topic of his job changing to a full-time, permanent position and his excitement to teach another class each quarter. I remember he said, “You know, my wife and I put so much energy into our jobs. We’ll often get home and just collapse on the couch. And we love every second of it.” I have heard so many of my professors make similar statements over the years. They work tirelessly so their students will be successful. He taught me to never give up on a student, to work hard for them, and always advocate for their success.
Along with my other teaching experiences, I have been privately tutoring my friends and family for over a decade. My brother told me recently that if I didn't start teaching or tutoring soon, I'm wasting my life because I'm so good at it. He may be a little biased, but I do very much enjoy helping students achieve academic success, and I LOVE helping students improve their writing skills.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Gonzaga University - Bachelors, English
Graduate Degree: University of Louisville - Masters, Women's and Gender Studies
GRE Verbal: 164
GRE Analytical Writing: 5
Reading, writing, playing with my pets, drinking delicious craft beer
Q & A
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
I like to get to know a student and understand what they love to learn about, but also what they struggle to learn. I like to know their educational/career goals as well because that will help focus our sessions.
What is your teaching philosophy?
#1 Be excited about the topic you are teaching. #2 Be extremely knowledgeable on the subject material. #3 Allow the students to discuss with each other; sometimes they learn more from hearing each other's thoughts than yours. #4 Be available to your students, even outside of the classroom, and work hard for them.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
There is never any shame in going back to the basics and re-learning vocabulary, sentence structure, and elements of paragraph structure. These things don't always stays with us forever, as much as we wish. I would also encourage a student to slow down and look up words that they don't understand--in fact, I would require it.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
My excitement and knowledge of a subject as the teacher is often more important than a student’s excitement because it trickles down. Not every student is going to love literature and art, but if I can explain why it's important to me then there is a good chance it will resonate with the student as well. Also, it's really important to find subjects and topics that the student is interested in when possible.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
I think it's important to have fun when learning, even as adults. Sometimes the best way to engage a student and keep them learning on their own is by including fun activities or games in the process.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
To stay motivated a student needs two things: to feel like they're doing well and interest in what they are studying. I can help this process by giving them small wins that reward/encourage them to keep going. Maintaining interest is difficult, but if I can incorporate things in which the student is already interested, I can make the learning process much better, so that is what I try to do.