my early work
I am a teacher at heart. I didn't know this until graduate school when I was required to teach my first discussion section of gothic art history. Ugh. I was a nervous wreck. I thought it was surely going to kill me. But, to my surprise, I discovered a love that I had never experienced before. I remember the first student who came to my office hours to tell me, "I learn nothing when I sit and listen to my professor. But I learn so much from you." That connection between me and that student was magic for me. But it was also the moment I began to become aware of the need to improve teaching in higher education -- a need that is still largely unrecognized today, more than 20 years later.
I began teaching part-time at a community college after receiving my Master's degree in art history. I worked full-time as a high tech recruiter during the day and taught one art appreciation class every Monday night. I was so insecure. I remember typing my lectures and reading them verbatim as I clutched the lectern with a huge slide projected image behind me. I remember reading a student comment on one of my evaluations that said, "She's a great teacher, but is so much better when she doesn't read her lectures." Guided by that feedback, I made changes.
In 2002, I was hired full-time and about a year after that, I taught my first online course. I was honestly very curious to tinker with the idea of teaching online and the thought of having some flexibility in my schedule really appealed to me, as I was the mother of an infant and toddler at the time. Much like my graduate school moment, teaching online sparked something magical inside me. I felt such freedom to create . I recognized also that I was better online in many ways. It provided me with time to think through things more effectively. I could reflect on student interactions before reaching out to them. As I designed -- and redesigned -- my online classes, I made continuous changes and surveyed my students about them. I used their feedback to recognize what was working and also to discover aspects of my class that I would never have considered.
In 2007, I began using VoiceThread to teach art history online. It was a game changer for me. Bringing asynchronous voice and video interactions into my class illuminated new dimensions of teaching and learning. Not only did it increase the community in my classes, it also allowed me to recognize barriers that prevented some students from succeeding. One semester, I remember viewing a student's video response to a prompt about a work of art. It was an early prompt ... one that was designed to warm students up to the idea of talking about images, something that is difficult for students who have no experience in the visual arts. The student had shared with me previously that she had dyslexia. As I sat and listened to her speak, tears filled my eyes. She was so engaged, so eloquent, and really probing to make relevant connections. At once, I reflected on the fragmented writing in that same student's discussion posts. That moment made me recognize that purely text-based learning environments are a barrier for certain groups of students, groups that are more likely to be enrolled at community colleges. This was the beginning of my journey to becoming an equity-minded educator.
my recent work
Over the years, I continued to follow my passion for online education and my professional identity has been transformed along the way. Nowadays, I am committed to professional development for faculty who teach online. I am also deeply committed to the practice of equity. Online education expands access to higher education to students who do not have the privilege to be on campus full-time.