Becoming a teacher changed my life. I always thought I could be good at getting students excited about a field that I love so passionately. But I never realized how fulfilling it would be to develop such strong relationships with my students. When I left my television news career in 2016, it wasn’t because I didn’t love journalism anymore. I left because I loved it so much that I wanted to share my excitement with students. To my surprise, teaching them to be better journalists comes second to my ability to teach them to be better people.
When I first became an adjunct professor at the University of South Florida in 2015, I knew I had extensive professional experience that I wanted to share with students to prepare them for their careers. Since then, I’ve developed more confidence than I ever could have imagined. I know I am a phenomenal teacher. I see the impact I have on my students and I couldn’t be prouder of the power I have to transform their lives. I am fueled by my students’ gratitude that they share with me on a daily basis. Not only do they express their opinions of me in my USF instructor evaluations, they also do so on social media, including this video my students made for me.
My teaching philosophy is simple. I love my students. If they struggle to follow instructions or meet deadlines, I don’t give up on them. I can teach them how to shoot and edit videos. I can teach them how to tell compelling stories that make this world a better place. I can teach them how to showcase their skills on WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and LinkedIn. I can even get them to air their work in America’s 11th largest media market. But what I’m most proud of is my ability to show them that I won’t let them fail.
It’s no secret that college students are overwhelmed with anxiety and depression. I am honored that my students come to me to share their struggles. I teach them that the mental health challenges so many media professionals experience, is also what empowers them to be empathetic and compassionate storytellers. Their struggles allow them to see the world in a different light. With preparation and coping mechanisms, they learn how to overcome and live with their anxiety. They learn to view their struggles as an advantage that makes them better at their jobs because they can relate to the people they’re interviewing.
My students know that I will support them and work with them. They also know that I will hold them accountable and push them to get out of their comfort zone. It can be intimidating to learn so many new things in such a short period of time. But I know they can do it. I like to think my confidence in them is contagious. If I believe in them and don’t give up when they make a mistake, it makes it easier for them to believe in themselves too.
I often start my semesters with students who have never conducted interviews, shot video, edited on Adobe Premiere Pro, written scripts or AP-style stories. It’s exciting to see them improve so quickly by the end of the semester. Proof of my ability to teach skills can be seen on the Zimmerman School YouTube channel, USF Newzroom, WUSF and WEDU. But my ability to build their self-esteem and emotional intelligence is a bit harder to spot from the outside. That’s where my real strength lives.
The industry I send my students into when they graduate is burdened by burnout. Journalists often learn technical skills in college but then leave the business just a few years into their careers. My teaching philosophy is to arm my students with more than just skills to get a job. I arm them with the skills it takes to derive joy from their jobs. I help them understand that their passions can and should change as quickly as the technological transformations that media is undergoing. I teach them how to love learning so innovation can fuel their careers.