I love to teach. I began teaching in graduate school as a Teaching Assistant in 2006, before becoming a Graduate Instructor in 2009. During and since this time I have developed my professional skills, curriculum, and portfolio through classroom teaching, pedagogical workshops, seminars, mentorship, and course development at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Most recently I was selected to be a mentor for WMU’s new program, the Graduate Student Teaching Intensive. This was a year-long intensive program where I helped WMU masters and doctoral students development their skills for future careers as professional academics.
I have taught the following courses:
Introduction to Sociology
Principles of Sociology
Classical Sociological Theory
Deviance in United States Society
Sociology of Religion
Sociology of Deviance
Self in Modern Society
Qualitative Interpretation of Social Life
Qualitative Analysis and Writing
Social Psychology of Deviance
Qualitative Interpretation of Social Life
Introduction to Social Psychology
Sociology of Deviance
Principles of Sociology
Below is my teaching philosophy statement, taken from the introduction of my full teaching portfolio:
Teaching is a critical, integral, and rewarding aspect of a career in academia. I have a passion for teaching sociology, and I truly enjoy what I do for a living. I consider it a great privilege to be a part of an institution that fosters such values as freedom of thought and expression, social and intellectual diversity, and civic responsibility. That I get to share with students my passion for, and commitment to, these values is a real source of fulfillment, and one I hope never to take for granted. I have a deep commitment and respect for the learning process, for students, and for the multiplicity of perspectives and backgrounds that constitute an active and open educational environment. My teaching goals can be distilled into four basic elements: (1) maintaining a commitment to the sociological enterprise and fostering in my students a sociological perspective, (2) challenging and facilitating students’ critical thinking skills and intellectual growth, (3) creating a learning environment that is conducive to both of these objectives, and (4) understanding and encouraging diversity of all kinds while working to build and maintain communities that embody and sustain all of these values.
Commitment to the Sociological Enterprise
For me, sociology is more than academic discipline. It is a productive way of thinking and of seeing the social world around us. The sociological perspective is not something merely to be discussed in the classroom. Rather, sociology for me has become an enterprise; a practice; a way of seeing almost everything. I believe that sociology can be a powerful tool for understanding the social world, but it is also more than just understanding “the way things are.” In my view, implicit in sociology is the view that the social world, as a production of human beings, can be changed for the better. That is, sociology encourages civic engagement, and fosters a deeper desire to act toward positive social change. Because I value this myself, I am committed to giving students a chance to make the sociological perspective an important part of their thinking. I encourage and challenge students to make it a part of their everyday “toolkit” so they might better understand the social world around them, and become more active as citizens in their communities. In the context of the increasing complexities and challenges of contemporary societies, and our growing global community, I cannot think of a more relevant and pressing time to be encouraging that which sociology has to offer, and putting the sociological imagination to use.
Cultivating Critical Thinking and Intellectual Growth
I believe that every student, regardless of their background, their academic strengths, or their scholarly interests should be given the opportunity in my class to develop their critical thinking skills and experience significant intellectual growth. Thus, one of my primary objectives in the classroom – through my teaching strategies, class assignments, exams, and interactive and participatory style of teaching – is to ensure this opportunity for each student equally, and to enthusiastically encourage and cultivate the learning process that leads to this growth. Further, I want to challenge students to take the skills they acquire from the classroom and apply them wherever they go. I feel that not only is critical thinking and intellectual growth desirable, but it is a necessary condition for the development of an informed citizenry that can fruitfully participate in a democratic and free society. I feel great privilege and responsibility as an educator to play such an important role in helping students become committed to the practices of critical thinking an intellectual growth.
Creating a Vibrant and Positive Classroom Learning Environment
The accomplishment of the goals outlined above is not possible without first creating and sustaining an appropriate space for the learning process to take place. Creating a positive classroom environment is an essential part of my teaching philosophy. My approach in achieving this is twofold. First, I plan thoroughly and provide structure for each class in order to maximize the time that we have. For each class, I create and use a combination of in-class activities, short response assignments, group work, term research papers, and exams. I emphasize student creativity, and encourage their active engagement in their own learning. For instance, when I assign a paper or a research project, I set broad guidelines, and challenge students to develop their own ideas and put their creative power to use. For assignments such as these, I act more as a guide and resource for students; helping them construct their ideas and arguments, but always giving them a level of autonomy and freedom as I facilitate empowering them with their own thinking. In addition to the evaluative components of the class, I use a variety of other strategies to teach concepts and covey ideas. I use PowerPoint to organize my lectures; I incorporate video clips, documentaries, illustrative charts, and even music into classroom lectures, in order to highlight concepts and illustrate important points. I also encourage spirited discussion and respectful debate on all of the issues we cover in class. I believe that learning requires reading. So, without overburdening students with too much reading material, I assign carefully selected readings from textbooks, journal articles, edited readers, and other sources, and always try to balance the classical and contemporary literatures on a subject. Whatever the topic of discussion, I attempt to make it current and relevant to students’ lives.
Understanding Diversity and Building Community
I value diversity and encourage the understanding and expression of multiple perspectives. I am committed to teaching students from diverse backgrounds and social locations, challenging students to learn about other views and practices, and encouraging them to always be respectful of diversity themselves. Teaching sociology itself is an exercise in understanding diversity. It means discussing issues of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, religious viewpoints, and many other social issues as they relate to inequality and prejudice. I want students to leave my class with a greater appreciation for diversity of all kinds, so I do all that I can to foster an environment that is not merely tolerant, but open and respectful to a multiplicity of viewpoints and practices. Toward this end, many of the classroom activities I assign are designed to encourage dialogue and get students working together in teams. For instance, I have an in-class activity that I use to get students working together to discuss ways of overcoming social problems that result from inequality, stratification, discrimination, and prejudice. This is one way of achieving my goal of building a classroom community where students are able to focus on, acknowledge, and see more clearly social issues related to diversity, while simultaneously encouraging them to put their sociological imaginations to use in order to work toward greater social equality and justice. If I can help instill in students greater desire and motivation for taking the values, and a more developed understanding of diversity out into their broader communities, then I feel I have made an important contribution as a teacher.