During my teaching experiences, I have worked hard to facilitate student learning and create an environment that is intellectually challenging, engaging, and most importantly, fun! I strive to create a stimulating classroom environment through conveying my passion for the subjects I teach and through generating enthusiasm and interest that stems from my own. From my academic and field experiences in biology, ecology and environmental studies to my personal expeditions up mountains, down rivers, through forests and beneath oceans I have accumulated a deep appreciation and fascination with the natural world. As a researcher and educator, my hope is to convey this passion for learning to my students and community. I believe that a good teacher can make any subject interesting, but a great teacher will take that subject and inject their lessons with high energy, hands-on activities, personal anecdotes, real-life context and humor.
In addition to providing enthusiasm, it is important in my teaching to provide a well-organized framework for learning. It should be clear what the students can expect from my lessons, and what I expect from the students. Through presenting knowledge in a logical and organized manner I work to help learners establish strong foundations in theory and basic understanding. In the process of building this knowledge foundation, I try to encourage students not to memorize information but to learn how to draw connections, how to frame information in the context of their personal experiences, how to develop good study techniques, and how to research a topic in order to answer their own questions.
I am aware that not all students have the same learning style. In order to keep the classroom environment stimulating and appeal to a diverse array of learning needs, I try to incorporate a wide variety of teaching techniques such as lectures, discussions, group work, think-pair-share and team-based activities. In addition, presenting material using different media such as videos, photography, demonstrations, field trips, storytelling and games is something I like to do, if possible, to make student learning interactive and engaging. I feel that if students have the opportunity to observe, or even better experience, concepts and ideas in different contexts, there is a greater chance they will foster a deeper subject interest (as it relates to their active engagement and experiences) and a better overall understanding.
In order for students to learn and integrate knowledge, they must be provided with a classroom environment that is safe, open and respectful. I stress that no questions are ‘stupid questions’ and that everyone should feel welcome and encouraged to question at any point during lessons or activities. I believe myself to be a very receptive and approachable person. I try to be open to, and aware of, the diversity in the classroom. I emphasize that students should feel welcome to approach me with any problems, struggles, or issues they are having with the material or classroom dynamics.
Most importantly, I am as much a learner as I am an instructor. The journey through my teaching thus far has been filled with many challenges, obstacles, and lessons that could be improved. However, I also take pride in having had many great successes in the classroom, resulting in enormous satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. I am constantly learning from my students, my peers, through professional development activities and reflective practice. I see no end to the development of my skills and abilities in teaching and learning, and only look forward to more opportunities for growth and self-improvement…..with of course, a whole lot of fun on the side!