For nearly ten years I have taught in a wide variety of roles: university tutor, adult ESL instructor, online adjunct professor, student and substitute teacher (see my teaching résumé). I am currently substitute teaching world languages and humanities at multiple schools throughout the Twin Cities and am eligible for Tier II licensure in Minnesota for German, English, and social studies.
My approach to the classroom has changed over the years, and increasingly focuses on culturally responsive teaching of the kind advocated by Zaretta Hammond—teaching that goes beyond simple questions of topic relevancy (as important as those are) to make connections between the methods of classroom instruction and the pedagogical and learning traditions of students’ home cultures, thereby growing cognitive ability and helping all students to become “ready for rigor”. Particularly in exploring the relationship of memory and learning in oral cultures (from which many of our diverse students come), I am excited about the potential for CRT to promote dialogue between progressive and classical educators.
I am also enthusiastic about project-based learning and its capacity to foster engagement through relevance, empower students with confidence (as well as portfolios to back that confidence up in future college and job applications), and promote the growth of more holistic understandings and skill sets that join academic progress to development of skills in project management, marketing, interpersonal awareness, and other crucial 21st century capabilities. My own background in world languages contributes to this, having involved academic preparation and “on the job” training in equal parts. I took my undergraduate degrees in history and modern languages at the University of Alaska (2008 and 2009) where I tutored German as a student job, became the first English translator of the Berlin writer Ernst Blass, and had the opportunity to visit southern Germany. I then spent a year in Québec, where I helped to prepare a new French translation of the Gospel of Thomas and volunteered teaching ESL with a Canadian charity that settled new immigrants. The next three years I taught ESL online to diverse learners across Latin America, learned Spanish from them, and traveled in Argentina and Uruguay. None of those opportunities would have paid the dividends they did (or even been possible) without solid classroom preparation, but neither would my academic studies have been useful without going through some “real-world” crucibles. While I unfortunately cannot send all my students abroad (as strong as that temptation sometimes is on a Friday during seventh hour), I do strive to provide balance through connecting their learning with community resources, online crowdsourcing projects, and other opportunities to put language into practice.