I completed my teacher preparation at Chapman University, earned a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from California State University, Northridge and a Doctorate in Education from the University of Southern California. I taught in Bulgaria and Egypt before returning to California where I taught in a variety of school settings and grade levels.
The penultimate goal for me through teaching, advising, and mentoring our teacher candidates is to facilitate the development of a knowledgeable, capable, and empathetic professional teacher. Because I want our students to engage in best practice in their own teaching, I must both model those best practices and explicitly explain them to students.
As a teacher, it is important to me that I model for future teachers relevant and flexible strategies that address the needs of the whole learner while engaging and effective learning experiences where students construct and share knowledge. My courses focus on developing critical thinking, the mindful use of technology, reflective practice, and the nexus of local and global perspectives. It is also essential that teachers have the capacity and confidence to problem solve in a variety of contexts fully aware of the implications of their actions. This requires an understanding of global educational issues with effective and flexible leadership skills.
Constructing knowledge is how people learn best. I design my courses so that students construct knowledge with their personal experiences as a foundation. For some students, this kind of learning is new and a bit scary. Without strict parameters about what a product should look like, or how an idea should be digested, students sometimes find themselves in an uncomfortable Zone of Proximal Development, a place I refer to as The Zone of Temporary Confusion. Much to my students’ chagrin, I love it when they are in this place because I know that when they are in this place, a little panicked and a little angry with me, I know they are learning. I also know it will soon pass and that they will then appreciate having been left there on their own to construct knowledge. This should not give the impression that this is done casually or without empathy. I recognize each student’s entry point, his or her tolerance for ambiguity, and their life experiences and scaffold the learning as necessary modeling Gradual Release of Responsibility (just as I want them to do with their students) along the way. I also make a point to be explicit with them about what I am doing and why. They are not always happy with the process, but the feedback I get indicates they are very happy with the results.
The creation of a safe on-line learning environment that respects individuals’ life experiences and learning goals is essential to a successful course and models another Best Practice I expect students to continue in their classrooms. Further, my goal is that on-line courses are accessible, flexible, set high expectations, and facilitate a connected experience.
I model the necessity of strong curriculum design by providing and explaining a Backwards Design Unit Plan for each course. I use all the tools at my disposal, BlackBoard Discussion Threads, Collaborate Groups, Twitter, and Facebook to model how to engage in a Professional Learning Network and as a venue for each student to make choices about how to develop their own networks. You can ‘lurk’ in our PLNs at #seaccr, #uasgep, or #teachAK
Reflection on and self-assessment of my teaching drives my research program. What I wonder about student learning becomes a research project and what I learn from that research is used to improve instruction. In this way, teaching drives my research decisions but teaching always comes first.
My research focuses on developing pre-service teacher cultural consciousness and diversity education for social justice and exploring ways to implement innovative technologies to support diverse learners.
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