On my first day of college, the “Psychology 101” professor lectured while holding a little white mouse. As he made his concluding remarks, he reached behind a table, grabbed a boa constrictor, and dropped it on a table with the mouse. “Now that is fight or flight”, he said.
I never forgot that class.
No animals are harmed in the making of my lectures, but I have always been intrigued with mysteries of how the brain learns and remembers. I am passionate about bringing that excitement to my students. In my classes, students and I have been known to explore Gameshow Statistics, Nerf-Gun Population Sampling, Dirty Dancing and Executive Functions, Gorillas and Attention, and Tinker Toy Ability Assessment in the pursuit of knowledge about educational psychology, assessment, learning and the brain, learning disabilities, and technology integration.
My classes and research are centered around
• Learning and the brain because our brains change when we learn
• Ethics in leadership because leadership takes courage and that fight or flight thing is still with me
On Teaching Philosophy
Three guiding principles summarize my teaching philosophy: Universal design, competency- based instruction, and the intentional modeling of both teaching and learning.
Universal design is a brain-based framework for teaching and learning that encompasses one big idea: diversity is the norm. Curricula and learning environments should be designed to meet the diverse and changing needs of students. Instructors have a responsibility to ensure student inclusion and engagement by presenting information in a variety of formats, providing flexible ways for students to demonstrate knowledge and skills, and facilitating the application and transfer of those skills across teaching and learning environments. Inclusive leadership teams, classrooms, and school communities are organizations in which teachers, administrators, and students empower one another to work together and create environments where everyone feels safe, supported, and encouraged to express needs and concerns. In a learning community, content is viewed through multiple lenses, decision making is distributed, and students have choice and control in their learning processes. Leaders in inclusive learning organizations encourage teachers to use a variety methods such as projects, field experiences, gamification, and simulation in order to facilitate, construct learning, and support all students. Inclusive classrooms are places in which diversity, mutual respect, and academic excellence are valued and promoted.
My commitment to competency-based instruction comes from my central belief that all students can access rich content given the right framework and the ability to move through the continuum of skills and knowledge according to their needs and learning styles. Personalized learning, strong teacher-student relationships, flexible learning plans, and student self-empowerment are ingredients to developing 21st century critical thinkers and learners. Competency based environments create multiple pathways to success, are driven by student needs and are strength-based in their application.
Finally, I believe leaders in learning organizations have a responsibility to be the best possible models of teaching, learning, and ethical decision making for their students and staff. I have spent my career advocating for vulnerable populations, and I believe passionately in every child’s right to high quality instruction and meaningful membership in the school community. I lead with courage, and I am comfortable making decisions based on an ethical framework. An individual’s experiences, values, and perspectives influence how they construct knowledge. Defining the ethical course is challenging in the face of competing opinions. Ethical decision making requires introspection, critical thinking and difficult conversations with diverse groups. Thus, leadership and teaching are both special types of mentorship. A mentor learns through success and failure and seeks ongoing supervision because it is through these systems that we learn, grow, and show accountability as professionals. A mentor accepts the personal and professional responsibilities as well as the challenges of helping and understands that people are fallible and second chances are not a gift to be given but an expectation of helping behavior.