Our May Teaching Excellence Spotlight awardee is Dr. Amy Petros, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Chemistry. Dr. Petros prioritizes her students’ input as the most important asset to her teaching style and course design.
“Dr. Petros values each and every one of her students, working exceedingly hard to make sure each individual leaves her classes a better student than when they first entered the class; Dr. Petros does not base the success of her students on their grades, but how they evolve as learners and teachers themselves. Dr. Petros goes above and beyond to help her students achieve independence, establish resilience, and find motivation during their time in her courses, so they not only work hard in her classes, but continue to excel in their college careers long after they have left her classroom.” – Student who nominated Dr. Petros
How long have you been teaching?
I started as an adjunct at UNT in Spring 2010 and began full-time in Spring 2012.
What classes have you taught/do you teach at UNT?
I started teaching General Chemistry for Science Majors, both semesters (CHEM 1410 and CHEM 1420), and I taught the labs associated with each course. Summer 2014 I taught organic lecture and lab.
How have you worked on developing your teaching skills?
I participated in the NextGen Course Redesign program for the labs, which converted all our lab recitations into one online section that students can complete before their labs. I attend conferences on experiential learning and active learning.
Did you ever take formal classes or trainings on teaching in graduate school? What about later on in your teaching?
No, I did not have formal training in teaching; everything I've learned has been from my students teaching me what makes sense to them. I was a teaching assistant in graduate school, and I was a GK12 Fellow, an NSF program that placed STEM grad students with STEM K-12 teachers to make learning engaging and fun.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced teaching, and how did you overcome them?
The first one, was probably nerves. Every day teaching is like an oral exam! After that, it was learning how I can break complex ideas and problems into manageable "bites" that students can digest.
How would you describe your approach to teaching?
We [Dr. Petro and her students] start at the very beginning and get to some very challenging problems, but we get there step-by-step.
What resources do you find most helpful to your teaching practice?
CLEAR has provided great resources like events where other faculty describe lessons that they designed for their classes. Even if it's in history or anthropology, I am inspired to think of learning and teaching in new ways. In addition, if my students didn't feel comfortable enough talking to me, I wouldn't know where they struggle. That is the most important data for my experiments in teaching and learning.
I have been a teacher for 13 years, 6 as an elementary and middle-grades teacher, and 7 in higher education.