When I was 18 and thinking about my future, I was dead set on becoming a movie star. When that didn’t pan out, I was convinced that I would make my fortune as a high-powered advertising executive like you see in the movies. That plan went only slightly better. After several grueling years in business, I was given the opportunity to teach a class at a local community college, and I never looked back.
While I didn’t end up in a Madison Avenue corner office, the decade I spent as an entrepreneur and communication professional taught me a great deal about good leadership, effective communication, and perhaps most importantly, about things like kindness, empathy, generosity, and service. These are the core values that drive my pedagogy.
I grew up in a family of educators and leaders. As a child I listened from the back of the conference hall as my father spoke about building relationships in school communities. I finished countless coloring books in the corner while my mother conducted teacher training seminars or evening meetings with any number of school committees. I dutifully brought my sister snacks while she wrote her dissertation on early childhood education, and I cheered from the sidelines as my other sister coached her team to a national championship. I continue to beam with pride as my big brother travels the country sharing his expertise as an Apple Distinguished Educator and scholar. These are the models I look to for inspiration.
As a teacher-leader, I believe that I have a responsibility to develop and communicate a compelling vision for the class and the perils of change that I’m asking my students to go through. Whether it’s learning the syntax of HTML or challenging assumptions about representation in popular culture, individual growth can be taxing. Students need a reason to work hard and explore the materials, and I believe a teacher-leader plays a critical role in creating and maintaining that expectation every day.
Change is difficult and college can be an overwhelming, lonely, and stressful experience for students. With that in mind, I am committed to developing supportive, generative, and constructive learning environments. I believe (and the literature suggests) that better learning takes place when students are in positive affective emotional states. Further when students trust and believe in the teacher-leader’s promise for the future, they can allow themselves to focus on the course content rather than struggling to figure out issues of politics and power. I am also deeply committed to building relationships with students so that I can understand their individual needs. I am an advocate for the students.
Finally, I have seen that energy, enthusiasm, and joy are contagious. Curiosity and play are critical to communication pedagogy, and I work every day to model an approach to learning (and life) that is both rigorous and enjoyable. I love working with students as we explore new ideas, challenge existing ones, and dream of all the ways we can make a positive impact in the world around us.