I am crafting my teaching career with passion and talent for inspiring and challenging my students, helping them to see the worth, aptitude, and creativity within themselves so they might discover their vocations or build upon vocations they’ve already discovered. I am adept at working with students to improve their writing and communication at individual levels while also fostering a sense of community in the classroom and a collective, collaborative investment in the work at hand.
As a teacher of first year composition, beyond simply encouraging students of all career trajectories to see themselves as developing writers and assisting them with their individual writing goals, I also emphasize the foundational roles of multimodal literacy, critical thought, rhetorical analysis, and academic conversation in my classes. Through an approach rooted in democratic pedagogy, I’ve found success in empowering students to enter complex dialogues and evaluate various texts by considering message, medium, and audience. Many students, unsure at first how rhetorical analysis or academic conversation might align with their majors or career aspirations, begin to see such course touchstones as the very context of the work they’re doing in college and will do beyond. Thus, motivated by genuine inquiry, they begin to see themselves as scholars.
I make a point in my composition classes to apply such content to timely issues and themes that resonate with my students. Over the past few years, my students and I have related composition and rhetorical principles to race, gender, identity, politics, music, visual art, sports, and more. I’ve had a student in a nursing program present a thorough analysis of White Helmets, a documentary about the humanitarian crisis in Syria, and develop her own argument on related issues over the course of a semester from that base; I’ve had a student-athlete write a thoughtful rhetorical analysis of the media coverage of Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest; I’ve had an engineering major compose a moving multimodal project on the poetry of Natasha Trethewey and how it helped him more deeply understand his own identity as a Southerner; I’ve had entire classes engage in mindful, constructive discussions, in person and online, about the documentary 13th and the Black Lives Matter movement and perspectives on Charlottesville guided by Michele Norris’s Race Card Project. These, of course, are only a few examples.
My teaching philosophy is rooted in a comprehensive understanding of writing as process and is informed by humanist and constructivist pedagogical theory. I ground my teaching in the premise that composition is a process, etymologically and metaphorically related to the dirty yet (literally) enriching process of composting. My students and I approach our craft as gardeners approach theirs. One semester, one of my students made the astute observation that not only was her writing project in our class a working draft, but she was beginning to see herself—her life—as a working draft, too. Many students in the class, following her lead, made the connection then.
While my students recognize by my teaching that I am a subject matter expert with much knowledge in the areas of composition and literature to impart, they know that such a transaction is not passive. My students see me, and I see myself, as a mentor and facilitator in the classroom. As such, in each course I teach, I seek to create a rich, multifaceted learning environment that encourages interaction, celebrates diversity, and inspires uniqueness within the context of community, all while sustaining engagement and meeting students’ various educational needs through the incorporation of an array of technologies, texts, and collaborative activities. I do everything I assign to my students, whether it is a post in an online discussion, or an essay draft, or a final project. This helps establish a rapport with my students and contributes to the kind of affirmative classroom climate where learning and conversation can happen.
The work of theorists such as Howard Gardner, Maria Montessori, and Lev Vygotsky nurtured my teaching philosophy at an early stage, while the work of G. Lynn Nelson, bell hooks, and Elizabeth Losh, among others, has continued to enrich my pedagogy in recent years while urging me to always augment and adapt my pedagogical methodologies for the benefit of my students. Through an empathetic, holistic approach to teaching, I am able to meet students where they are and help them grow. I understand that teaching requires constant refinement and development, and to that end I actively seek ways to improve. My students see me as a teacher who always strives for the best, and this encourages them to do the same.
I see each student who enters my classroom as a human being with a life story—one that involves joys and difficulties, and often a full class schedule alongside a full-time job. To this end, kindness, empathy, and understanding form the context of my instruction. While maintaining high expectations and promoting a culture of sincerity and scholarship, I am always willing to work with students to ensure their achievement and to provide additional instruction on any matter related to a given course. Because of this approach, a number of students I’ve taught who might have otherwise disengaged from a given class were able to see the class through and succeed. My emphasis on empathy in the courses I teach has enabled me to cultivate positive relationships with my students, some of whom have told me that the class they had with me was the first time they ever felt heard in college, or indeed in their educational careers.
I am here for them as a guide along the path—a path I continue to walk and will always walk, which I have understood as a life’s work. In that sense, my students have been and will continue to be guides also for me.