Welcome to Brittany's Teaching Portfolio
As I apply for jobs, I struggle to label myself. Am I a conservation biologist? An applied animal ecologist? A herpetologist? A biostatistician? One label that I do not question is “teacher”. As children, many people dream of being veterinarians, firefighters, or princesses as adults. From the very start, I wanted to be a teacher. It took me years to decide what exactly I wanted to teach (I’ve dabbled in microbiology, culinary mathematics, and wildlife biology), but I’ve always believed that sharing knowledge with others is one of the highest callings that someone can answer. As I entered college and was lucky enough to land a work-study job monitoring telemetered deer at Cornell University, I fell hard for applied wildlife research.
As I developed as a wildlife scientist my interest in the science of teaching mirrored that path. It was no longer enough to know what worked in the classroom and what didn’t by trial and error. Instead I became interested in how students learn, how past perceptions and implicit biases influence student learning, and generally how to engage and educate people of all ages and backgrounds. I stumbled upon the Graduate Teaching Certificate Program through Colorado State University’s Teaching and Learning Institute (TILT) and am so glad that I did. Through my participation in the program I have improved as an educator and have found support in a network of others who take their label as “teacher” seriously.
While working on the Graduate Teaching Certificate and on my Ph.D. in Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, I have had opportunities to learn about teaching pedagogies and put them to use. For instance, I attended a workshop on high-impact educational practices and learned that participation in opportunities like research projects, experiential learning, and study abroad have huge effects on both student learning and student retention. I then served as a teaching assistant for a study abroad trip to Baja California Sur, Mexico. The students designed and implemented their own research projects, and I saw an incredible transformation before my very eyes. Over the course of the semester, students became more confident and competent and began to see themselves as scientists. This experience has led me to strive to find ways to incorporate high-impact educational practices on campus in more traditional learning environments.
In addition to the educational material that the Graduate Teaching Certificate program gave me access to, TILT has provided me with exposure to a group of people who care about giving the best education possible to students. As a young scientist trying to find my way in the academic arena, there were times early during my Ph.D. that I was embarrassed to talk about my love of teaching, for fear that it would cause peers and others to conclude that I was not serious about research. Joining the Graduate Teaching Certificate program has given me role models who excel at both teaching and research, and who understand the interconnectedness of the two. I’m now confident that the time I spend developing as an educator is also benefitting my research. I have become a better writer, a better synthesizer, and better at distilling complicated theories and findings into concise nuggets that both students and researchers can appreciate. My teaching has also been strengthened by my research. I’ve learned that an interesting question about a unique species in a beautiful place can engage all types of readers, listeners, or funders.
The tools, experiences, and wisdom that I have gained through the Graduate Teaching Certificate program have made me a stronger leader and communicator. These skills will continue to serve me well as I embark on a path where teaching and research merge.