Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning

Articles

Ms. DeAnna Varela, Lecturer, University Studies

 My teaching philosophy and values are reflective of my overall commitment to social justice and change through education. I see teaching as an extension of my background as an activist and work with non-profits. As a facilitator of student-centered learning and success I strive to create a safe environment where students are able to take risks, share their personal experience and knowledge, as well as practice new aptitudes.

Within the classroom I actively involve students in experiential application of feminist and social justice concepts and theories. I also believe that it is important for student-centered learning to be fun, engaging, interactive, analytical, challenging, meaningful, creative, and have practical value outside of the classroom.

I believe that students have a responsibility to themselves and others to think for themselves and to participate daily in their education rather than just sitting back absorbing and regurgitating information from lectures. I encourage students to share what they already “know” and how they came to this “knowing”. From there, I teach theory, offer tangible examples, and pose queries to help them challenge what they think they “know”. My methods allow students to come to conclusion on their own through theory, critical thinking and analysis, and personal experience. Values or dogma cannot be explicitly taught, nor should they. Students should be entrusted with their education. This empowers students within the classroom and in their lives. I merely facilitate this process and lead by example, or what I like to say “practice what I ‘teach’”.

 

Central to my teaching philosophy is the belief that students attain mastery over the subject materials presented to them and put them into practice. I expect students to participate daily in class through teambased learning, large group discussion, or on the discussion boards of online courses. When students watch media in class it is not passive. They take notes and later connect them to course readings in order to write an analysis of the media shown. This analysis is also discussed in class to further understanding and connections made between students. This helps to facilitate participation and peer-learning. In addition to classroom activities I provide opportunities for service learning, internships, volunteering and/or community service outside of class.

 

I have an agenda when I teach and it is to ensure student understanding of the feminist theory of Intersectionality and foster social change. I want students to know that Women’s Studies is more than just being a feminist or about gender equality. My students are taught the skills to see the world through a feminist lens that looks at the intersection of gender, sexuality, ability and disability, race, class and identity. I strive to fill in the blanks where others have left out the voices of women and to help students challenge systems of oppression. I also want to bring awareness to contemporary issues surrounding women and girls, teach women’s history, and contribute to social change. It’s important to me that students leave my class with practical knowledge and skills that can be applied to their careers and their personal lives.

My commitment to my students and their education goes beyond the classroom. Many times students come to me seeking academic and professional advice, but they also confide in me on personal issues involving family matters, relationship concerns, and even referrals in times of crisis. I am always available to my students in any way that I can be of service. And if I cannot help them, I find them someone who can. I believe students reach out to me because they find me credible, honest and trustworthy. These characteristics only enhance what they learn in my classes. Here is where I would like to document my commitment to mentoring students, my commitment to service learning and career advising.