To kickstart The Focus is You, a short Q&A that features a different Faculty Focus member every Thursday, we’re featuring Maryellen Weimer, editor of The Teaching Professor and a professor emerita at Penn State Berks. Albeit she told me, “Remember, I’m retired dear, so I don’t teach students anymore,” she’s still teaching us something new everyday, from her workshops and books to her lifelong stories.
What would your students be surprised to find out about you?
Maryellen: That I drive a muscle car—Dodge Charger with a Hemi, big, black, and bold.
How did you know when a day in class had gone well?
M: A really fine teacher (with lots of teaching awards to his credit) told me he’d never had a whole class session go well. He’d had some pretty good 15 or 20 minute chunks. I like how that answer challenges me to think less globally and more minutely about what happened in class.
What did you incorporate into your classroom that strengthened your teaching?
M: Humor and a collection of good teaching-learning stories.
What/who influenced you to become a teacher?
M: Aunt Mary who gave me a sharp red pencil and let me circle typos in papers. I was in grade school, and I thought Aunt Mary was very cool. She told me that teachers got to do all sorts of fun things and getting off for summer wasn’t one of them.
How did you keep things fresh in the classroom?
M: A steady diet of change and an unwavering belief that anything can be done better.
If you could pass on any wisdom to your students, what would you share?
M: College is the real world, not some place on the way there. Don’t miss what it offers: the chance to learn what it takes to live life well.
How would your past teachers describe you as a student?
M: Pretty ho-hum, more interested in grades than learning. Pretty sure there were lots of things I couldn’t learn and just as sure there were lots of thing I didn’t need to learn. Definitely a work in progress.
What is your favorite teaching technique?
M: A powerful question.
If you enjoyed Maryellen’s teaching techniques and sense of humor in the classroom, she also provides numerous strategies to foster student learning in her book, Helping Students Learn: Resources, Tools, and Activities for College Educators.