My Teaching Philosophy:
I believe that an instructor plays a pivotal role in creating a classroom dynamic that works well for everyone. With that comes responsibility to treat each student equally and create a relationship of mutual respect with students. Creating this environment of mutual respect requires developing a balance of approachability and firmness. These practices can be illustrated with the following examples of my experiences in the classroom.
Working at Hunter College taught me that many people have children, live far away, work several jobs or have other life situations that make it difficult for them to meet with me in my office. Therefore, I don’t believe in special treatment for students who come to office hours. Any questions I get during office hours, I restate anonymously in front of the entire classroom, so everyone can benefit from the answer. I do this because I know that it is more difficult and sometimes impossible for some students to visit me during office hours or make an appointment with me.
I believe that everyone learns differently, and therefore, I must vary the ways in which I teach a subject so that I reach everyone in the classroom. That might mean bringing in auditory or film sources to teach from. It may also mean creating assignments to be completed by doing something outside of the classroom, such as going to community board meetings or taking field trips to encourage students to relate a topic to something happening in the surrounding environment. It may also mean teaching through anecdotes that students can relate to. I also ask my students many questions in class to gage if they understand what I have taught them. I do this because I have had teachers in the past who do not feel the need to demonstrate subject matter in several ways to reach everyone. Sometimes, I have been the student who didn’t understand the subject matter, which can be very frustrating.
In response, here are a few quotations from teaching evaluations that speak to my use of teaching materials in the classroom: “Used supplementary material very well and innovatively. Would love to have her again.” And “I enjoyed this class very much and learned a great deal from reading the materials provided in class and from your experiences in the field. Thank you!”
I also want to create a very open environment, where everyone feels they can ask questions without judgment. Sometimes, if I get some kind of cue that people don’t understand, but aren’t asking questions to clarify, I will ask those questions myself, hoping someone else in the classroom can re-state something about the topic that will elucidate a response from others or more questions. It also allows me to re-state subject matter without having to call on a student who looks confused. One student responded to my ability to shape class discussions, “She was friendly, relatable, and easily sparked class discussions that many classmates enjoyed taking part in. Overall, a very good professor.”
No matter what the topic is, I try to engage students to think about the environmental, economic and social implications of a subject. I have taught World Regional Geography and The Geography of Middle America, in which I focus on human-environmental interactions as a way to meld together different topics. This may include discussions about resource use and extraction or environmental regulations that differ from the United States. It may also revolve around environmental conditions as a result of economic conditions in a particular region of the world. In my perspective, it is not possible to discuss any topic without also engaging in the environmental, economic and social constructions that create a situation. Not only does this approach teach students about the many definitions of sustainability, but it puts a topic in context of the human conditions and history in different parts of the world, which may make it more interesting to students. One student commented on this aspect of my teaching, “Prof. Miller was a wellspring of knowledge and very courteous to students. I would recommend her classes to any student interested in contemporary social environmental issues at the urban scale. Thanks for a wonderful semester!”
My teaching evaluations and faculty observation reports have all been favorable. All of the five classes I taught at Hunter College received above satisfactory and up to above “very good” average rating. All of my faculty observation reports have reflected positively on my teaching ability, methods and classroom presence. I have taught mostly classes in the range of 25-40 students, but one large class with 125 students.
Syllabi from courses I have created and taught:
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