I live for that “lightbulb” moment.
My interest in teaching began at Cal State Chico, in room 110 of the Physical Sciences Building (which is now being moved into a brand new building). Room 110 was the physics study and tutor room; from 2009 to 2013, Room 110 is where I received academic help from peers, and where I later helped other students. I have been tutoring physics, engineering, and math in some form, whether individually or in groups, since 2010.
I finally got an opportunity to teach at ASU starting in 2018, when I taught several intro to exploration design classes (SES 100) as a Teaching Assistant for my advisor, Dr. Craig Hardgrove. I took a “current-event” approach to teaching by incorporating current local pop-culture into my intro to programming lessons. I also incorporated YouTube videos (Carl Sagan was a classic) as well as demos into my teaching. My students rated me a 4.4/5.0 in 2019 overall, with the main negative comment being that I needed a bit more enthusiasm when teaching (I could get a bit monotoned at teaching programming).
In spring of 2020, I co-TA’ed with another graduate student to teach Exploration of the Universe (SES 128) labs. These labs were already very developed, but they included an evening problem-solving lab once a week. In these evening labs I was given some freedom to come up with problems for the students to solve. I put a heavy emphasis on units, as I believe that units are one of the most important things to learn early in physics and engineering. Units can immediately help a scientist or engineer find an error in a calculation – if they units don’t check out, there is clearly an error somewhere! The last 1/3 of the semester was forced online due to COVID-19 – this actually allowed me more freedom in teaching. All of our labs essentially turned into problem-solving sessions, but I was able to incorporate technology into the labs. I created YouTube videos for my students where I used a whiteboard, my dog, the textbook via screen share online, animated gifs, my piano, and other YouTube videos to teach. Many of my students expressed during office hours that they were anxious due to being in dorms, being around busy family, not having internet access, etc.. By recording my office hours and offering them online to students, many of these students were able to at least lower some of their stress. By adding in things like guest appearances by my dog, Dr. Bones, a few silly memes or gifs, and filler piano music (that I played myself) from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, my students responded positively. One student emailed me the following: “None of this has been particularly easy for any of us and I know I’m probably not the only student who appreciated the quirky twist on the video (although I’ll admit I cringed most of the way). After a long week and especially after my calculus exam this morning, it definitely brought a smile to my face, along with a couple laughs.” Overall, my students rated me a 4.8/5.0, the most common comment was that I was understanding of the situation that they were dealing with; it was a pandemic, after all.
My Teaching Style
I teach at the university level. I suppose my style of teaching pedagogy is what I learned from my professors at Chico State: primarily a learning-centered approach. What does this mean? It means I adapt to the classroom and the students I am working with. I combine teacher-centered and student-centered pedagogies. Where I can, I combine lecture with inquiry, hands-on with discussion. I don’t just lecture, monotoned and strict, for a 55-minute class period, using PowerPoint slides riddled with bullet-points – I’ve erased too many of those from my memory, which is exactly the problem. Yes, I will use some PowerPoint slides and I’ll use the whiteboard, but I’ll also use YouTube videos, I’ll use demos, I’ll call on students to answer questions, I’ll engage with my classroom.
I converse with my students, asking questions to test their current knowledge, so that I can build on that or fill in gaps that may be missing. I try to have more than one way to explain a concept, often using real-life examples (e.g. when learning about standing waves, I can relate the nodes to the frets on a guitar, or we can talk about the sweet-spot on a baseball bat, or the low points of pressure in a Ruben’s tube!). I use pictures, hand-motions, equations, etc. to get STEM concepts across to my many learners. I build off of Bloom’s Taxonomy and the other lexicon in teaching pedagogy. I build mutual respect with my students in the classroom, and encourage that they build that respect with their peers. They are young adults, soon to be STEM professionals, going into $10k’s of debt, they should act like and treat each other as adults. I do not discriminate in my classroom, and I take my students’ physical and mental health very seriously. I make sure my students know resources available to them at whichever University I am teaching. My goal by the end of every semester is to know the name of every student in all of my classes.