I began my college career as an education major. I wasn’t quite sure what age group I wanted to teach, but I did know that I wanted to teach science, something that has always been a passion of mine. Within my first year of college, I had changed my major to Science Education, but changed by major to General Biology after I was encouraged and inspired to go on and get my PhD in Biology. I had taken courses in ecology and environmental science from one of my favorite professors and mentor, Dr. Kurt Haberyan. He was one of the first and continues to this day to inspire and motivate me to be a better scientist, he laid the roots of what would be a long academic journey of mine. He showed me how a passionate and caring teacher can influence and help guide young minds. I knew then I wanted to do the same for others.
From the first time I stepped into a classroom as the role of “instructor” (a new Master’s student teaching BIO 100, Our Natural World, at Minnesota State University), I have highlighted my natural curiosity and enthusiasm for the biological topics that I am teaching. Throughout my education, I found that my interest in topics mirrored the level of enthusiasm of my teachers. Enthusiastic and knowledgeable teachers can make subjects come alive, even for students who have minimal prior interest or experience with the subject. I want to be one of these enthusiastic teachers. I want to be a teacher that opens students’ minds to new biological concepts, a teacher that gets students excited about learning biology, and a teacher who instills a broader interest in the natural world. I will never forget the first time a student came to me and said they decided to take on a biology major because of the passion and interest they got for biology from my classroom. While I realize not all my students will become biologists, I want to instill a biological curiosity in my students, as well as the ability to think critically and solve difficult problems.
In my time as a graduate student I was fortunate to become involved in an outreach program at ASU, Graduate Partners in Science Education (GPSE). We trained graduate students in pedagogy and lesson planning before sending them to middle schools for a series of after-school science experiments. After participating as an instructor for one year, I was selected by my peers to be the director of the program, where I served for two years. In my time as director, I helped to reform our syllabus for training graduate students to be more focused on learning objectives. We added lessons on the core theories of education such as constructivism and cognitivism, and spent time studying frameworks such as the BioCoRE Guide (Brownell et al. 2014) to help guide what concepts and principles should be covered and when during biology education. The reformed GPSE curriculum is still active today, providing science outreach for over a hundred children every year.
When students come away from one of my courses, I want them to have a continuing curiosity about the natural world. I want students to be able to critically evaluate scientific claims and findings and ask relevant follow-up questions. More importantly, I want students to have an appreciation of the beauty and wonder of nature and to be able to eloquently describe basic biological concepts to non-scientists, further continuing the enthusiasm for learning that I hope to infuse in them.
Select Student Comments on Teaching
“I love how excited he is about the material. His interest in the subject radiates off of him, making all of his students excited as well. He is also extremely fair and understanding when it comes to the work, and is clearly there to help you learn cool new things. Alex is also extremely funny and easy going, which makes the lab much more enjoyable for everyone.”
“Alex was always very enthusiastic and simplistic when it came to explaining the labs. He caused students to become excited about the material and fully understand it. He was very helpful.”
“10/10 Best TA I’ve ever been given, and I have come across quite a few. No one has ever made lab’s as fun and exciting as he did. He also made the material much more understandable, especially when the subject got a bit confusing. He would go around and make sure that all the tables were doing okay, and would answer everyone’s questions that they had about the lab. I really lucked out getting Alex as my TA.”
“Alex can make any lab fun. Even the most mundane things like dispensing of the materials after use such as gloves or even paper towels are made into the most hilarious topics. He stays on topic and he brings new information and perspectives as well as much needed comic relief together effort and flawlessly. Great guy over all 10/10. I wish he becomes a professor here at ASU. I would love to take his classes or for upcoming students to take his classes i suppose.”
“Alex was engaging, understanding, and kind from the first day. I looked forward to coming to class. You can really tell that he cares about the success and well being of his students.”
“Alex seems to love his job and love his students. This was a 7:30 am lab and nobody wanted to be there. However, Alex was always there on time with a smile and great enthusiasm. He was very funny and personable and seemed to make it a habit to interact with us other than just lecturing us on what the lab was about that day. He made that class extremely enjoyable and although its only my first semester of college, he is already my favorite teacher and could hold that rank for a long time.”