I see teaching as an integral part of my intellectual life and believe that the best teachers never lose sight of the fact that they are also perpetual learners. I have made it a priority to develop courses that appeal to a broad range of experiences and intellectual interests. My hope is that my courses challenge and engage students from many different walks of life and educational backgrounds. In my classes, I emphasize a student-centered approach to teaching which focuses on multiple perspectives, critical thinking, and writing as an act of empowerment.
F. Scott Fitzgerald once famously argued that “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” This statement serves as the core of both my teaching philosophy and personal approach to learning. To meet the needs of a diverse classroom, I bring in conversations from the humanities, social sciences, and hard sciences to facilitate interdisciplinary discussion and engagement while also exposing students to a diversity of perspectives surrounding the course theme. In my courses, I use secondary sources to facilitate interdisciplinary discussion and engagement and use primary sources to expose students to a diversity of perspectives surrounding the course theme. Allowing students to confront multiple arguments and viewpoints is essential to their development as critical thinkers and successful writers. For example, in my course entitled, “The Politics of Race in America,” my students and I addressed contemporary questions of race and identity in the United States by turning to the past to see how Civil Rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin viewed the role of race in American society and how each attempted to fight racial injustice. Likewise, in my course entitled, “The Making of Donald Trump’s America,” students examined the influence of historical themes such as racism, white supremacy, populism, globalization, religion, and gender on the current political and social landscape of the United States. Applying course readings and materials to contemporary issues through aiding allows students to become more successful critical thinkers.
In my classes, I encourage students to see themselves as active participants in ongoing conversations about topics they care about. This allows students to understand the ways in which writing can be a powerful tool to effect change, challenge assumptions, and think about topics in unique ways. In formal assignments, I encourage students to choose topics they feel passionate about. For example, in my course on “American Gods: Superheroes and Society,” I had several students majoring in biology use their understanding of human evolution as a means of answering the question: Why do we need superheroes? These students were able to approach the course theme in a unique and original way that enabled them to apply their own knowledge to a question. Encouraging students to apply their disciplinary knowledge in formal assignments enables them to see themselves as writers who can contribute unique perspectives to ongoing conversations about a specific topic. My students have found this aspect of my course to be rewarding, as it allows them to see the benefits of writing and critical thinking in preparing them for success in their majors, other classes, and future careers.
A year ago, a student asked me why I decided to become a teacher. Initially taken aback, I replied that I could not see myself doing anything else. I believe teaching is one of the most rewarding professions. I find the daily challenges and demands of teaching exhilarating, motivating, and fulfilling. There is no greater joy as a teacher than seeing students take ownership of course material and of their own intellectual development, and to see themselves as critical, independent thinkers. I view my time teaching in the Writing, Speaking, & Argument Program as my biggest professional accomplishment.