Education, and teachers, changed my life.
Teachers introduced me to new ideas, challenged me to always work harder and encouraged me to grab every opportunity. Professors later wrote letters on my behalf, cheered my successes and explained the world of academia. Those teachers and professors – going back many decades – are the reason I eventually became a professor at a Canadian university.
Informing every aspect of my teaching approach, is this: I am committed to ‘paying forward’ the investment those teachers and professors made in me.
Just like my former mentors, I will continue to be a professor who does her best to explore new ways of thinking with her students, creates opportunities and translates academic culture. I will see students as complex individuals with unique histories, appreciating what they offer and recognizing what they can become.
For my reflections on being a First Generation university student and professor, see here
I have taught, facilitated and been the ‘guide-on-the-side’ for interdisciplinary, environment and water-related courses from the first year through to the fourth year. These courses have ranged from large lectures courses (120+ students) to one-on-one advising of undergraduate and graduate theses/dissertations.
I’ll be candid: when I first started teaching (2009), I was absolutely terrified. I was wound so tight that I don’t remember cracking a single smile the entire semester. But then some experienced colleagues took me aside and offered the best teaching advice I’ve ever received.
First, just be yourself, and don’t bother trying to be the stereotypical “All Knowing Professor”.
Second, it takes three course offerings to really get a feel for what works and what doesn’t. Don’t hesitate to experiment or to change things up if something doesn’t work.
And, third [paraphrasing for appropriate online language], my worries are irrelevant. These students needed what I offered them so I should get over myself.
This advice, coupled with my Teaching Philosophy commitment, means that my approach to, and outlook on, teaching has changed dramatically over the last seven years. Much to my amusement I now find myself in classes, engaged and engaging, guide, problem-solver and, according to one student, a “natural teacher”. If they only knew…
My students seem to recognize my commitment to teaching. My teaching scores are consistently very strong as documented in student evaluations and my annual teaching scores. Students respond very well to the classroom rapport that we create together and appreciate my efforts to accommodate and build on their multiple learning styles, differential abilities and capacities.