Ph.D. student, Social Work
Before I began pursuing my Ph.D., I served as a clinical social worker in Utah and the Southeast, and I worked in the field of mental health for many years. While I found the work incredibly rewarding, I still found myself wondering, “Where can I go from here?” and “How can I keep growing as a professional?”.
This is where my desire for research began to develop, but the path wasn’t always easy. Without my Ph.D., I wasn’t always able to access valuable research that could positively impact my clients due to paywalls and inaccessible research language. It was frustrating at times; however, I wasn’t ready to give up.
I decided to return to school and earn my Ph.D. so I could learn how to read and conduct research, as well as teach. Since then, my research and passion for increasing accessibility in educational, professional, and mental health spaces has grown, and I have immensely enjoyed being a lecturer many times over the years in my social work classes.
As a lecturer, it was important to me to further my inclusivity and accessibility practices in the classes that I teach at UT. To help me get started, my P.h.D. director introduced me to TLI, and subsequently, I enrolled in the CIRTL F.U.E.L. program in the spring of 2020. This program was very empowering for me, as it aligned with the values that I bring to the classroom: using evidence-based strategies to increase access to course materials for all types of learners.
Since completing this program, I continue to use the practices taught in CIRTL F.U.E.L as well as TLI’s “Teaching Resources” webpage to challenge my teaching strategies, increase my awareness of best practices, and enhance my creativity to help engage my students in successful learning opportunities.
My time in CIRTL F.U.E.L. further encouraged many of the practices I have made constant in my courses today. The most important one for me being the creation of a common ground with my students. I strive to be approachable and build in multiple touch points to create feedback dialogue with them. I can also see the many ways my work in CIRTL F.U.E.L. has helped me with engaging my students, especially when it comes to receiving feedback on where I can improve in my teaching. This course helped me realize that while receiving negative feedback directly from a student is not easy, it is rewarding since I feel as though it takes a great amount of trust on the part of the student to be honest with me about how they feel.
I got to see this idea in action last semester when a student asked to meet with me to share her concerns about a classroom interaction. She stated that she decided to contact me directly instead of leaving anonymous feedback on the end-of-semester student evaluation because she felt safe with me, and that her concerns about not feeling included in the class would be heard. I felt incredibly honored that she would give me direct feedback in a manner that was not only respectful, but also collaborative, so that we could navigate her classroom experience together and improve it for the next class. This kind of safety facilitates learning in educational spaces.
I have been fortunate to have classroom experiences that have been as rewarding as my developments in research during my time at UT, and I look forward to expanding upon these rewards as I continue to challenge myself as an instructor through the resources I have gained from TLI’s website, and the evidence-based approaches taught to us in the CIRTL F.U.E.L. program.
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