Statement of Teaching Philosophy
During first grade back-to-school night, my teacher joked with my parents that if she were to leave in the middle of class, I would get up from my seat and continue the lesson. This anecdote, a story told often at family gatherings, has proved to be prophetic, as my natural affinity has turned into a fierce passion to uncover how others learn and to understand the best methods to impart knowledge. Working as a theatre educator, I have gained eight years of college-level teaching experience in a variety of theatre courses, and explored the interdisciplinary possibilities that have allowed me to effectively work with majors and non-majors.
I strive for excellence when teaching both online and in traditional classroom settings. My pedagogical outlook is rooted in the value of individualized approaches to education and development: a student-centered perspective on education which recognizes individual starting points in order to bring them forward in learning. I successfully combine multiple teaching methods to accommodate the diversity of learning styles in the classroom to support an individualized approach. I test the success of my teaching throughout each semester by evaluating learning outcomes and course objectives, as well as utilizing mid-term evaluations. This evaluation assists in making course changes based on
student process and feedback. I believe this flexibility is important, for, as bell hooks argues, “teaching is a performative act […] that offers the space for change, invention, spontaneous shifts, that can serve as catalyst drawing out the unique elements in each classroom”. As such, the end of the semester may be too late to make changes that celebrate the unique qualities of a student and could lead to increased student success. Experiential and active learning pedagogies are also at the heart of my teaching philosophy. In addition to lessons based on hands-on experience, I link classroom content with departmental seasons and current events. Whenever possible, I encourage students to both read and see a production to explore the process through which a play moves from the page to the stage.
One of my proudest teaching moments came just two days into teaching Beginning Playwriting for the first time. With tears welling in her eyes, a young student approached me and explained that her fear of sharing creative work overshadowed her excitement for the course. I thought dropping the course would rob her of a chance to experiment with writing, language, and expression. I did not want to limit such a passionate individual, so I devised another option. I told her that we would work together to come up with a plan where we would only share her work with her peers when she was ready. For the next few weeks, I checked in with her, gave her encouragement, and met with her outside of class. Eventually, she shared a short scene with the class, and soon she was sharing draft after draft of her plays. By the end of the semester, this young woman wrote one of the most beautiful, nuanced, one-act plays I have ever read. She submitted her work for consideration at several play festivals, and had success with several readings. This experience is one example of the value of working with students individually, to help them reach success.
In my research, I work to explore underrepresented voices in theatre, specifically women’s voices in the American theatre, and that same goal is a part of my teaching philosophy. I incorporate an array of texts from underrepresented voices into all of my courses, including in terms of dramatic literature, history, and theory. I make this effort to ensure that my students are reading, hearing, and seeing works by theatre artists with whom they may identify. My interest in supporting diversity of voice also applies to the classroom. From day one, I make sure that my students know that mine is a classroom that celebrates inclusion, diversity, and equity. To celebrate diversity means to truly value all forms of diversity. I include a “Respect Clause” in every syllabus to remind students that the classroom can be a vulnerable place for learning, and that we will respect each other’s thoughts, backgrounds, religions, lifestyles, and standpoints. I encourage all students to accept one another as we are, as each unique voice brings something to the community that we build together. I work to make sure my students take this respect with them even after the semester ends.
I cherish my rewarding experiences working in a variety of undergraduate and graduate classrooms. I have taught both theatre majors and non-majors and a range of class sizes, from a small, twelve-student acting class to a large lecture course of over two-hundred students. When teaching a theatre course, I focus on its importance to every theatre student, as one class could be comprised of actors, designers, writers, and directors, all learning together. Understanding the foundation of the art of theatre, performance methods, and theatre texts helps students become better collaborators. After all, to improve upon one’s craft, one must know its past, present, and have hope for its future. I also take pride in my ability to reach non-majors. Working with non-majors provides the opportunity to influence students beyond the discipline of theatre, instilling in them the value of theatre methods as transferable skills beyond my classroom.
My focus on teaching excellence goes hand-in-hand with my research interest in exploring the efficacy of theatre pedagogical methods. My goal is to be able to explore what makes theatre education so important, beyond the anecdotal evidence, by using qualitative and quantitative tools to measure the effectiveness of theatre training for our students. While a graduate student, I was a part of an interdisciplinary partnership to teach creativity theory and methods to senior capstone students in the Department of Bioengineering. This model of teaching creativity moves to teach skills from applied theatre and creativity theory in order to enhance the student’s ability to be creative: communication, problem solving, active listening, brainstorming, and problem finding. I have continued working in this interdisciplinary vein by teaching in STEAM-based contexts and by providing workshops and intensive training experiences for graduate students and faculty who are interested in improving their skills in communicating their research and research impact to the public, legislative audiences, and fellow academics. As Jill Dolan said, interdisciplinary work in our field should be an “exchange between theatre and other fields and disciplines.” In the changing landscape of higher education, it is more important than ever to highlight the value of this exchange and usefulness of theatre training and education. That is what I strive to do.
Over the last eight years of college-level teaching, I worked to turn a passion for teaching into a career. When I teach, I am authentic and performative. I have passion for what I teach, and I am excited to share my knowledge of theatre. For me, there is joy in teaching, and I believe this joy helps to establish an environment of fun, discovery, and exploration that makes me a highly effective instructor. Each course, rehearsal process, and student present opportunities to reflect and to explore new possibilities for the educational space, and I am dedicated to continued growth and the life-long pursuit of excellence in teaching. In first grade, my parents were told I would be a good teacher. Now, I work every day to be an exceptional one.
 bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, (New York: Routledge, 1994), 11-12.
 Jill Dolan, Geographies of Learning: Theory and Practice, Activism and Performance, (Middleton, CT: Wesleyan Uni Press, 2001), 67.
Supporting diversity of voice and thought is central to my approach to education, and I incorporate an array of texts from underrepresented voices into my research and course content. I approach all courses with the hope of introducing students to plays dealing with relevant social, political, and historical issues, exposing them to the ideas that theatre reflects the human condition and that it can be change-making. I have a particular interest in directing students in these pieces to expose them to a wealth of dramatic literature and theory history that goes beyond the cannon.
From day one of the semester, I make sure that my students know that mine is a classroom that celebrates diversity, inclusion, and equity. To celebrate diversity means to truly value all forms of diversity. I include a “Respect Clause” in every syllabus to remind students that the classroom can be a vulnerable place for learning, and that we will respect each other’s thoughts, backgrounds, religions, lifestyles, and standpoints. I encourage all students to accept one another as we are, as each unique voice brings something to the community that we build together. I work to make sure my students take this respect with them even after the semester ends.
I have first-hand experience with diversity education and its application to issues on the national stage. I was teaching at the University of Missouri (MU) during the fall of 2015 when the campus made national news after students of color spoke up for their place at the university. The day after the threats of violence were made to our campus, many students of color did not feel comfortable coming to class. In response, I cancelled in-person class and assigned an alternative at-home assignment, as I did not want my students to have to choose between their safety and an absence. When we reconvened, some students asked why I made that decision. It prompted an educational and enlightened conversation on race, gender, and how we wear a part of our identities on our bodies.
My dedication to diverse populations can be seen in several other aspects of my teaching. I am especially cognizant when I work with young students from the Rowan University STEAM Academy. These students are a high-need, high-achieving population, and many of them are first-generation college students. For many, this program serves as direct access to success in the university setting. Additionally, last spring, two of my former MU students submitted to the Chancellor’s Office a dossier of my contributions to fostering a diverse atmosphere at the university. They felt I had helped to foster an environment of success for those young women through the classroom and my involvement with university leadership. I was honored to be awarded the 2017 MU Tribute to Woman Award, but even more proud that my students felt that they had been set up for continued success.
True diversity and inclusion is not going to happen if we just open our doors and wait for students to come to us. Rather, we have to go to where they are and meet them on level ground. It takes work, but it is the best kind of work. My practices are not perfect, but I strive to and will continue to do everything in my power as a faculty member to ensure I improve and better myself to fight for inclusivity.