This is the second in our Take Five series on outstanding VCCS faculty members. Our objective is to shine a light on those who are innovating while educating and in the process, taking classroom instruction and student engagement to a whole new level.
1. Were you always good in math? What is it that triggered your interest in becoming a college professor?
Math was always my preferred subject, but I cannot say that I was always good at it. I always did well in school, but I had to work hard at it. Math was something that interested me so the work felt less tedious than other subject areas. It was not until early in high school when I was recruited to the math academic team by one of my teachers that I realized that my interest had become a strength. As a part of that team that won competition after competition, I gained a lot of confidence in my math ability.
From that point on, I knew I wanted math to be a part of my career choice. I did not fall in love with the idea of teaching until I worked as a tutor at Patrick Henry Community College during my first year in college. I started my career as a high school teacher and progressed into my current position. I have truly enjoyed teaching at every level.
2. How do you engage your students? What do you do in the classroom that might be considered unconventional but effective?
I work hard to relate to students. As an academic advisor, I understand that relationships are a big part of the educational process. I take time to get to know the short-term and long-term goals of my students. I use that insight to guide my teaching and real-world applications. I don’t dread the “when am I going to use this in real life?” question. I face it head-on.
3. What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered in your virtual learning environment?
Relationship-building and ensuring student understanding are much more challenging for me in the virtual learning environment. Students are able to “hide” easier in an online environment. The synchronous design eases this to an extent, but overall, the online learning environment makes it harder to incorporate community in our community college.
4. How do you measure success in the classroom?
As I teach predominately developmental students, I measure success outside of my classroom. My concern is on how well these students perform at the next level. Did they pass their gatekeeper math? Did they reach their target score on an entrance/exit exam? Do they feel more confident in their mathematical abilities moving forward?
In the classroom, I use a combination of traditional assessment and formal/informal communication to gauge student understanding. My grading focuses on student understanding as much as it does correct/incorrect answers on a test. Going back to my high school days, I feel like the Virginia SOLs caused us to prioritize correct answers over student understanding.
5. Please tell us about your hobbies and interests that influence your style of teaching.
My hobbies and interests are very eclectic. I am a little bit of a sports nut, but I think the best description of me would be a DIYer. I truly enjoy learning a new skill that I can apply in my everyday life. It is not uncommon to catch me immersed in YouTube watching instructional videos or reading “how to” articles online. I do think this helps me relate to students as they often turn to similar resources to learn a new skill. Also, my diverse interests help me relate with students in different programs of study.