Educator at heart.
Nearly every aspect of my professional life has included an element of teaching. These experiences have informed how I interact with students and manage classes and the learning experience. Since 2000, I have participated in, planned, and facilitated health education curricula of different durations (two hour sessions, short series workshops of 1 to 3 session, up to 10-week long sessions). I have developed, implemented, and evaluated 10-week sexual health peer education curricula people in Austin, TX and New York City with and for youth aged 14 to 24. There were many skills that I developed working with hard to reach youth that have helped me develop skills needed to engender a respectful class environement — one that promotes learning and sharing. This facilitation involved utilizing didactic and enagaging activities to get youth to understand and be able to explain to other youth the biology of HIV, epidimiological foundations such as the transmisibility of infections, incidence and prevalence of STDs; health communications approaches so that the young people were capable of leading engaging community educational workshops.
At the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Studies I implemented these skill sets when I taught Research Writing Clinical Seminar’s I and II with two cohorts over two academic years. The purpose of these courses was to teach a cohort of Physician Assistant’s how to write and present academic research for those who might work in a research environment i.e., a teaching hospital. The first cohort I taught, had not yet taken an Epidemiology course, so I modified my syllabus to incorporate fundamental concepts needed to understand and interpret the quality of peer reviewed literature. I used a mixture of didactic lectures combined with engaging discussions of peer reviewed articles to disect journal articles. My goal was to operate from a strength-based approach and to provide students with multiple ways they might absorb the information. I allowed space to highlight any research or practical experiences students brought to the classroom to enrich the learning experience for the entire classroom. I found that practical experiences that students shared not only solidified theoretical information for that individual but for their fellow students as well.
Because of the varying degrees of experience in the classroom, I incorporated multiple benchmarks for students to ensure continuous progress on their written work: first to receive feedback from myself, and later to receive feedback from a peer in the classroom. For the presentation component, students were given the option to present in class prior to their presentation date to receive feedback. However, because there was not enough time for all 34 students to participate, the emphasis was placed on web-resources which I compiled for students to review on our class web-site (a tailor-made site using the Academic Commons) for their review outside of class in addition to a lecture on preparing academic presentations. This included, among other things, sample Ted Talks, an introduction to using Prezi, a collection of graphics to customize PowerPoint presentations, and presentation “Dos” and “DON’Ts”.
My commitment to young people and education is demonstrated through many years of experience outside of the classroom including the weekends I spent in the spring for several years at local Brooklyn baseball fields coaching youth, on and off the field. I began coaching with the Red Hook Little League in part to be a source of support to the young women on the field the first season the league opened to include girls, but I stayed when I realized teaching little league was about shaping the kids how to respectfully interact with one another, how to learn about a sport they loved (or were at least curious about), how to build community, and teach them how practice made for better individual players and a team. As part of my Tae Kwon Do training, I taught lower-ranked belts while earning my first, second, and third-degree Black Belts in Austin, Texas, working with both youth and adults. In Brooklyn, New York, I led 12-week sessions at a community-based organization where I taught the fundamentals of Tae Kwon Do and this culminated in students competing in a state competition where students earned a first and second place in their forms division. For a semester, I left at 6:30am to take an eighth grader to school; without this intervention she most likely would have dropped out. However, I realized that my individual effort would never have the reach to impact broad scale equity, which is why I am committed to population health research around social justice and higher education.