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Associate Professor, Integrated Science and Technology
Even as a youth, I knew that I wanted to become a teacher. I have often looked back in my life at who I felt was a good teacher and how I could incorporate the best of those teachers in my own instruction while avoiding what I found to be negative teaching traits.
I have always felt that a classroom should be run in an effective and efficient manner in order to clearly communicate material to students. Classes are concentrated both in time and class meetings at the collegiate level, making every minute of face to face instruction valuable. To be as helpful as I can, no matter how the day has gone, I take a positive and upbeat outlook into each session. By communicating ideas clearly and concisely, students are able to relate to the discussion and know that they can turn to me as someone to assist them in their learning.
When looking for a textbook for a course, I try to find one with understandable examples as I believe that most students learn by doing. Teaching in the computing field, I give students ample examples and work through several of these examples and field questions throughout a class period. If I am unable to lecture and simply take the entire time to answer questions for students, that is fine as I know that students can then go back and read the material from my lecture at a later time and bring additional questions to the next class meeting.
I believe that learning should be relevant and personal, but at the same time, challenging. If the material that is taught is not relevant or up to date, students will not feel a need to learn what is being taught. For this reason, I bring real examples of how computers and information technology are used into every class period. Often times, this includes a humorous story, but it keeps the interest of students.
Learning must be personal in that students must take the responsibility for learning. This means that when a student comes to my office or asks for assistance in an e-mail, I take them through a problem solving approach to the problem, often times with them discovering the answer on their own. Seeing the light bulb come on, so to say, or the smile light up their face makes my choice of professions well worth it.
To be worthwhile, I also feel that learning should be stimulating and that students must feel challenged at times. If students were never challenged, once they leave school, they would not be able to succeed in the world. The world is not a straight and narrow path, but a broad, ever branching road. I design each of my assessment activities to be challenging as it is my thought that students should be able to learn from mistakes while they are in college in order to them prepare for a career. I would rather someone make mistakes now than later and miss an opportunity for themselves in the form of a job. The IT job market is very competitive and a mistake can cost a company a significant amount of revenue.
To be worthwhile, I make myself available to students outside of class. I have an open door policy, holding extra office hours, and am available via e-mail. My policy is to check e-mail several times each day, being sure to give time to detail for each student question. I do this because I feel that teaching is more than simply feeding students facts – it is about being there to help them find the answers that will solve problems. You cannot force a person to learn, but an atmosphere for learning helps them excel at their own pace and at their own time. If a student were to need to find the answer to a question and not be able to receive prompt feedback, they may turn away from the question or lose their train of thought.
For the aforementioned reasons, I rely on the use of technology to aid me in my teaching. I place all of my course lecture notes for each chapter, assignments, exams, and supplementary material on the World Wide Web. I also maintain active, searchable discussion forums online for common student questions. Because of the availability of technology, the way in which information is used in my teaching makes activities more applicable for students because they can always refer to the online content when necessary. I am quick to remind students that knowing the correct answer is not always the most important thing, but knowing how to solve a problem to find the answer is.