Why does teaching adults appeal to you?
They contribute remarkable energy to the classroom dynamic. With adult students, change is always on the horizon, and that creates a buzz. Maybe they’re switching careers or need credentials; perhaps they’re going to graduate school and need to complete a prerequisite. Some have simply fallen in love with learning. Whatever the case, each student has made a real commitment to come to class, and that commitment is palpable. Adult students also bring their own professional and life experiences into the classroom, allowing them to learn from one another.
How does your background benefit adult students in the School for New Learning?
I began my career in higher education teaching French at Hebrew University of Jerusalem and at Northwestern University. I then worked for 12 years at Continental Bank where I developed my business skills and became vice president in market research and training. My career experiences bridge the gap between academia and the workplace.
What is your teaching philosophy?
Class work needs to be engaging. Most adult students come to class after spending all day at work. In addition to job responsibilities, they have families and other obligations. So classes need to be relevant.
Questions are more important than answers. Not only do questions lead to continued inquiry, but they also connect students and teachers. Increasingly, our students become our teachers, and our ability to learn from them is as important as our ability to teach.
Education is personal. I always try to get to know my students individually. In the context of the classes I teach, I want to know: What are they curious about? What are their aspirations? What do they want to learn? What real-life problems are they trying to solve?
Storytelling is a great way to teach and learn. It engages not only the mind, but also the heart. Discussing short stories, critical incidents and cases enables me to create a hospitable learning environment where students feel safe to share their own stories.
How has being named the ‘Illinois Professor of the Year’ by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education impacted you?
Being named 'Illinois Professor of the Year' is a tremendous honor but it is also a challenge. How do I consistently meet the expectations such an award carries with it?
At the beginning of all the courses I teach, I ask my students why they decided to take my class and I get all sorts of answers.
After receiving the award I started to get a new one: “What makes you 'Illinois Professor of the Year'?” What I like most about this question is that it often leads to an interesting discussion on what it means to be a good teacher and what it means to be a good student. Part of being a good teacher is that you always have something to learn, and part of being a good student is that you teach others what you have learned.
Why is studying the transformation of the American workplace important to your students?
Everything we know about work is changing, specifically where, when and how we work. The workforce is more diverse than ever and so are the values, experiences and expectations of workers.
Lifetime and even long-term employment belong to the past, replaced by the concept of employability. In order to remain employable, you must understand the complexity of the work environment, perform ongoing self-assessment within the context of that environment and learn continuously.