Receiving the 2013-2014 UNCG James Y. Joyner Alumni Teaching Excellence Award
Click here to see the video created for the award

While I enjoy research, teaching remains my passion.  I am fortunate to  work at an institution that values classroom instruction and is committed to producing quality educators.  I seek to contribute to this mission by preparing preservice social studies teachers for success in all types of instructional environments.

Teaching Philosophy

I have developed three interconnected philosophies for teaching at the college level, all of which are aimed at preparing students for their careers in the classroom.

Grades are a Result of and not a Cause for Learning:

 I will confess that I stole this particular phrase from my undergraduate methods instructor, Dr. Barbara Stern, but I have found it to be an extremely insightful approach to teaching and learning at any level of instruction. We live in a society that is motivated by outcomes, and students too often transfer this approach to education. While grades may serve as a way of motivating some students to excel in the classroom, a grades-first focus tends to ignore intrinsic reasons for learning. Particularly when dealing with pre-service teachers, I feel a responsibility to instill a learning-first attitude, which they will hopefully pass along to their students once they have a classroom of their own.

This philosophy does not discount the importance of grades, however. Grades are a reflection of what has been learned and what skills students are capable of undertaking.  Instead, I am simply stating that the focus of students' attention should be on the learning process, not on the outcome. If students put their time and energy into learning for the sake of learning, their final grades will reflect that effort. At the same time, a lackadaisical approach to learning will result in lackluster grades. While giving perfect marks to every student is a rare occurrence, it is my goal every time I enter a new classroom. Based on this philosophy, I know that if all of my students have A's at the end of the term, I have engaged them in the process of learning through activities that require time, effort, and critical analysis rather than acts of memorization and recitation.

Teachers Should be Prepared to Enter a Modern Classroom:

Advancements in technology continue to revolutionize the way Americans work, socialize, gather information, and find entertainment.  Yet, many middle and high school classrooms across the United States are relics of a time when textbooks and chalkboards constituted the entirety of instructional tools teachers had at their disposal. Part of this problem certainly stems from the monetary inequity found within public education, often based on geographic location and socioeconomic status.  However, perhaps a more distressing reason for antiquated instruction can be attributed to teachers who lack the training or desire to integrate new technologies into their classrooms.

While interventions with current teachers may influence even the most diehard luddites to turn on a computer, teacher education is better situated to revolutionize current educational practices by training future educators with the skills and knowledge to incorporate digital technologies into their classroom instruction. While students will enter educational programs with varying levels of technological proficiency, it is the responsibility of teacher educators to ensure that future generations of teachers have a base set of knowledge that allows them to perform basic computer skills, as well as effectively search and access instructional resources via the internet.

Yet, I would argue that it is even more important to convey the reasons why pre-service teachers should use technology in their classrooms. Adolescents today interact with digital technologies more frequently than in any previous time in history. As a result, their attention spans are shorter, and they often seek information using a variety of mediums. In addition, when used correctly, the internet and computer-based technology allows teachers to implement constructivist lessons that require students engage content from an inquiry-oriented, critical perspective.  In other words, technology not only opens pathways to previously unattainable resources, but it also provides teachers with a means to instruct students in a way they find both interesting and meaningful.

Students Should Not be Resigned to Their Own Experiences:

Many students decide to enter the teaching profession based on a favorite teacher from their own educational experiences. While these relationships are important, they can occasionally act as blinders that force students to conceive the instructional style of their idol as the perfect way of teaching. Even as someone who has had the pleasure of being flattered by students proclaiming that they planned to "become a teacher because I want to teach my students just like you taught me," I shudder at the idea that anyone would be resigned to pattern their teaching style identically to my own. Teaching is an art that requires teachers find their own voice and their own way of instructing and communicating with their students.  Clearly, one can steal strategies and habits from successful teachers, but trying to emulate someone else will never let a teacher truly feel comfortable in front of his or her classroom.

Therefore, as a teacher educator, I feel it is my responsibility to expose my students to a variety of instructional strategies, even ones that have not worked in my teaching or those with which I personally disagree. While I reserve the right to recommend certain strategies or provide honest assessments of those that I do not advocate, I feel that it is important to allow students to define their own teaching style based on the resources, strategies, and examples that I provide in class.  Few aspects of teaching can be described as either "right" or "wrong," and students should realize that what works for one teacher in one class may not work for another teacher in a different class. By showing students different methods of instruction, it is my hope that they will blaze their own trail rather than simply rely on preconceived notions of education.

University Teaching Experience

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
TED553 Teaching Practices and Curriculum in Social Studies
        --TED554 Middle Grades Social Studies Education
        --TED465/680 Student Teaching and Seminar
        --TED631 Trends in Teaching Practices and Curriculum in Secondary Social Studies
        --TED638 Seminar in Secondary Education
        --TED650 Intersection of Classroom Management and Instruction 
        --TED669 Educational Implications of Learning and Developmental Theory 
        --TED628/688 Theory and Practice of Online Instruction
        --TED495 Middle Grades Teacher Education Capstone Seminar
        --TED746 Research on Teaching

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
        --CI410 Middle School Social Studies Methods (Teaching Assistant/Primary Instructor)
        --CI550 Methods of Educational Inquiry (Teaching Assistant)
        --CI401 Teaching in a Diverse Society (Teaching/Technology Assistant)
        --CI335/473 Content Literacy and Technology Development (Teaching/Technology Assistant)

Relevant Certifications and Licenses

 Virginia Collegiate Professional Teaching License for Secondary Education (Current)

Teaching Awards and Recognitions

Recipient of the UNCG James Y. Joyner Alumni Teaching Excellence Award, 2014.
Recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award from the UNCG chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success, 2015
Recognized as a faculty mentor at the Teaching Fellows Chancellor and Faculty Appreciation Reception, 2011, 2012
Named to the List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by Their Students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2008
        --Additional rating of "outstanding" for inclusion within top 10% of campus instructors
One of five finalists ($500 stipend), Roanoke County Public Schools Golden Apple/Teacher of the Year Award, 2006
Teacher of the Year, Glenvar High School, 2006
Highest Virginia Standards of Learning Pass Rate in RCPS for a Particular Discipline (U.S. History & World History), 2003-2004; 2004-2005
Roanoke County Spotlight Teacher, Roanoker Magazine, January 2004
Hometown Teacher of the Week, Salem Times Register, January 2003 & May 2006
Developer for Online U.S. Government Course for Roanoke County Public Schools, 2002