Our December Teaching Excellence Spotlight awardee is Teresa Moss, Teaching Fellow and Graduate Student in the Department of Philosophy & Religion. Ms. Moss has extensive experience teaching in a variety of capacities as faculty, as well as via industry experience in the non-profit sector.
“To put it in bluntly, she's a good person. Her teaching style is dialogue based, and she genuinely cares about us and whether we're struggling to learn our material. She a very genuine and engaging person. Her environmental philosophy class is my favorite class I've ever taken.” – An anonymous nomination from a student of Moss
How long have you been teaching?
I have been teaching for 22 years in one capacity or another, including formal and informal teaching experience (over nine years at the university level), in outdoor environmental education settings, private and public schools, and local universities and colleges (TCU, UNT, and TCC).
What classes have you taught/do you teach at UNT?
I have taught PHIL 1050: Introduction to Philosophy, PHIL 1400: Contemporary Moral Issues, and PHIL 2500: Contemporary Environmental Issues.
How have you worked on developing your teaching skills?
First and foremost, I rely on student feedback throughout the semester to learn what is working and what is not working, and I continuously make adjustments as we progress throughout the semester. I also develop my teaching skills by learning from colleagues and reading current research on pedagogical skills.
Did you ever take formal classes or trainings on teaching in graduate school? What about later on in your teaching?
I have a Master of Education degree from TCU. I am always eager to participate in professional development opportunities to learn new ways to improve my teaching skills.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced teaching, and how did you overcome them?
I believe the biggest challenge I have faced in my teaching career has been overcoming public education's focus on conformity in grades K-12. Many of my students express that they are not used to being asked what they think about an issue, concept, etc. Teaching critical thinking skills and encouraging students to re-cover their sense of power and voice is rewarding. As an avid learner myself, I also find it hard to narrow the scope of my curriculum because I find so many things interesting and I want to share them with my students, but there is never enough time in a semester to cover everything I would like to cover. What makes that even more difficult is the number of relevant topics that arise in day-to-day current events that I also try to incorporate into our class time.
How would you describe your approach to teaching?
I have been deeply influenced by Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed and bell hook's Teaching Community and Teaching to Transgress. My approach to teaching is to build a safe learning community. It is important to me to learn every student's name and for them to learn the names of their peers. I try to implement Freire's problem-posing method of pedagogy as often as I can and to structure our class time around dialogue in a myriad of forms (Dialogue Journals, paired, and group activities, etc.). I also make a concerted effort to assign students to work in pairs or groups with different students so that my students have the opportunity to learn from the varied perspectives and experiences of their peers.
What resources do you find most helpful to your teaching practice?
I truly consider my students to be my greatest resource. I learn so much from them and my teaching has evolved as a result of their comments and suggestions. I encourage them to share anything they believe to be relevant to our learning and as a result many things they have shared (websites, articles, books, videos, etc.) become a part of my curriculum for future classes. I have also been very fortunate to have had several stellar teachers during my life as a student who served as amazing role models. In fact, my desire to teach stems from my experience with my second-grade teacher, Miss Crumpacker. Oddly enough, she was the teacher whom all of my friends wanted to avoid. When I found out I was in her class, I was devastated. Turns out, it was one of the best things that ever happened to me!