Welcome to Episode 2 of our Learning Conversations podcast! For this episode, we interviewed the Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), Gloria Johnson who shares some of her early experiences that influenced her decision to enter the field of education and some of what she’s been doing as head of the CTL.
Let us know what you think of the podcast! learning_design@davidsondavie.
Phil Tietjen: Okay. Hello everyone. Welcome to the second episode of the learning design podcast. In this podcast, we talk to people, uh, who have various experiences with the community college experience, and we’re really focused on, uh, those involved with, uh, teaching and learning, uh, in particular. And so our guest for the second episode is Gloria Johnson and she’s the head of our Center for Teaching and Learning here at Davidson-Davie Community College. So welcome Gloria. Okay. Uh, I thought before we talk about some of your great work at the center for teaching and learning, I thought we kind of look at, uh, delve a bit into the other side of your professional identity here at the college. That is your work as a math instructor. And when you think back to, like, when you first got involved with being a math instructor, what was it that kind of inspired you or kind of sparked your interest in becoming a math teacher?
Gloria Johnson: So when I was in graduate school, my intent was not to become a teacher. I, yeah, I really, I had actually had a corporate job before I went to graduate school. I worked in, um, I worked in the computer industry, but then the .com bubble burst. And I thought that was a great time to go back to school and get another credential. And so I was thinking more along the lines of working in industry or in government, but one of the duties I had as a graduate assistant was to teach a calculus course for students who were studying biology and management. And that experience was amazing and I loved it and that teaching that course really sort of reset my goals. And I decided that rather than going back into the industry, I would stay in academia.
Phil Tietjen: And I’m curious, like with those students that you had in that class, where they, uh, students who were kind of generally receptive towards like math, calculus instruction, that kind of thing? Or were they kind of like, eh, I don’t know, I’m kind of somewhat math-phobic? Do you remember?
Gloria Johnson: So these students, the classes, it was very, very, uh application-based. So all the applications that we talked about were things that were relevant to them. So these students were business majors, and we did a lot of business applications of calculus. And we also had students who were studying to be, uh, for example, um, wildlife officers. So we had applications about, oh, how, how do we manage populations of animals? How many hunting licenses should be issued? Those sorts of problems. So we did some, some nuts and bolts calculus, but it was always with the intent to go on and apply it to something specific. So these students tended to be pretty enthusiastic about those applications.
Phil Tietjen: Yeah. I mean, that’s been my experience. Um, most definitely, uh, if students like see an immediate or somewhat immediate, uh, practical application in what you’re teaching them, uh, that tends to definitely kind of heighten their sense of interest or level of engagement, uh, with the class, as opposed to if it’s like, if it’s more abstract, you know, that kind of thing. Yeah. Cool. Um, when you think back to your, to your kind of work and experiences as a teacher, um, what’s one or two kinds of experiences that stand out as particularly memorable for you.
Gloria Johnson: So I’m going back to that. Going back to that calculus class, When, when one of my students told me that they thought I should stick to teaching, um, that was one of the best compliments I’ve ever had in my life Because my students knew that I was, I was a student myself. I was a graduate student and they were undergrads. Um, and when I started hearing that from some of them, I was like, okay, this is, this is the right thing to do. Um, not only because I’m enjoying it, but I’m, I’m helping people and they seem to think that I’m on the right track. So, that was a great experience. Um, probably the second one that sticks out in my mind is the first time I ever had an entire group of students pass a course. So this was, this was a Davidson-Davie, um, probably about 17, 16, 17 years ago. I was teaching Math 070, which was one of our developmental math courses at the time. It doesn’t exist anymore, but, um, I had a group of students that they just clicked and they were amazing. And that class was so much fun because they came every day with the intent that they were going to learn some math and that they were going to pass this course, even though it was difficult for them. And that made it so much more easily and so much more fun to make activities and projects for them. And they just, they really gave their all to it. And it made it easy for me to come in and give my all to the class. And every single one of them got a C or better, which was awesome.
Phil Tietjen: Um, well, yeah, I mean, that makes a lot of sense, like, especially with, like, with regard to the first one where you actually have students coming up to you and making a special point of saying, Hey, you know, we really like, you know, your work as a teacher. We totally think that you should go into this as a profession. I mean, how validating is that you know, because you’re never sure. Sometimes it’s really, sometimes you’re not always sure if what you’re doing as a teacher is really kind of resonating with students, and here very early on in your career as a grad student, you know, you have students coming up into you and kind of really affirming, Hey, you know, your quality and contributions and effectiveness as a teacher. I mean, that must’ve been really definitely, I could see that as being inspiring.
Gloria Johnson: It is. And I mean, that’s, that’s really important to me to know that I’m doing something right for somebody And I still have days when I’m like, man, I don’t know, am I a sucky teacher? Am I an okay teacher? I think we all have those days. So it’s good to pull out those reminders that, that no, we are actually doing okay. And we’re really helping our students, which is.
Phil Tietjen: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. And on the second kind of experience you’re sharing is that you know, wow. How awesome is that when you have like an entire class as you say, is just clicking, uh, they’re coming in motivated, uh, they’re really wanting to engage, you know, with the different kinds of learning activities you have for them. Um, and it just, yeah, it just really makes your work, um, as a teacher, just, uh, knowing so much easier, but also so much more enjoyable, uh, because, Hey, this is what you’re passionate about. This is your thing. And, uh, be seeing that kind of in the eyes and kind of actions on the students, uh, is just, um, yeah, it’s really kind of rewarding. I know what I imagined. Very much so.
Gloria Johnson: And I still think about that group all the time, even though they’re, they’re long gone from, from Davidson-Davie. I, I still think about them often because they were just so much, they were awesome students.
Phil Tietjen: Yeah. Yeah. And when we have those classes that don’t kind of click as well. Um, you know, I don’t know about you, but those are the times I try to think, you know, to those instances, you know, to those classes, you know, or previous semesters, uh, as a way to say, you know, Hey, you know, it’s not, you know, when a class isn’t going that well, it’s like, Hey, you know, it’s not, this is not representative of my entire experience, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s, uh, it’s all good, you know? So, um, yeah, very cool. Yeah.
Gloria Johnson: This one is hard when you, when you have the group that you just, for some reason can’t make that connection with. And, uh, it’s, it’s depressing. I mean, it makes me sad and I keep, and I keep trying, but hopefully, those don’t the two extremes don’t happen very often. That’s the lucky thing.
Phil Tietjen: Yeah. And where I really tip my hat to you is that I got to imagine, like in the STEM fields lead, this is kind of like what I read and also just kind of, um, hear about in casual conversations with people in stem areas is that you do have a lot of students, especially in the lower level classes who do have kind of phobias about math or science and that kind of thing. And that to me would seem just kind of looking from the outside, in, add a little bit more of a challenge for you as an instructor to kind of figure out, Hey, what are some of the best strategies to kind of help them kind of get over that hump, um, you know, that kind of thing. So, um, kudos to you. Uh, okay. What else do I get here? Uh, so let’s chat a little bit about, uh, your work at the, uh, at the Center for Teaching and Learning. Can you tell us a little about your work there? Uh, what are some of the things you do and, uh, and then also, maybe talk a little about some of
the future plans you have as, um, as the director of the center.
Gloria Johnson: Okay. So what I do, um, I do a lot of clerical stuff for the CTL.
Phil Tietjen: Glamorous.
Gloria Johnson: Well, no, it’s, it’s, it’s not, you know, it’s not a super glamorous job, but that’s okay. Cause I’m not a glamorous person. Um, but I, uh, I make sure that, um, we’re spending our budget money and we’re not going over our budget and keeping an eye on that. Um, as we have our meetings, I facilitate the meetings of the advisory board, um, and take care of clerical things related to that. So when we have programs, I’m the person that’s sending out emails going, Hey, everybody, we’ve got this cool thing coming up. And the CTL thinks that you will enjoy attending this, or I’m writing the copy for this “Storm Report” newsletter. Uh, so it’s a little, uh, little things that other faculty on the advisory board don’t have time for in their schedule. Um, the faculty chair has that time made to help deal with those, those little things that just need to be done on a regular basis. Um, like sending emails and maybe making a form, keeping an eye on the library, um, you know, tracking, oh, this book has been checked in. I better put the, you know, I better flip the library card catalog, switch back to check-in instead
of checking out that sort of stuff.
Phil Tietjen: So yeah. Running meetings and doing clerical stuff. Cool. And didn’t you also didn’t, didn’t you and the CTL host a summer Institute last summer?
Gloria Johnson: Yes. So as part of the Title III grant, um, each summer we have a Summer Institute that is, um, co-planned and co-hosted by the Title III director and by the CTL. And that is, that is the chairperson’s sort of purview because I’m paid to be here this summer and I’m on contract. Uh, and the other advisory board members are not. So that’s, that’s a big part of what goes on during the second half of the spring session. And then into the summer is the planning for not only the Summer Institute but the active learning cohort as well, which is another piece of the Title III grant.
Phil Tietjen: Oh, okay. That’s right. Yeah. Right. Cause I’m a little bit involved with that. Uh, so are you guys planning another, uh, summer Institute, uh, this coming summer?
Gloria Johnson: We are. Um, so right now, Emily and I are getting the beginnings of plans together for the summer Institute, which this summer will be focused on universal design with a little sub-focus on accessibility.
Phil Tietjen: So, excellent. Excellent.
Gloria Johnson: We have a, we have an interview next week with hopefully someone who will become our keynote speaker.
Phil Tietjen: Oh, fantastic. All right, great. Yeah, I’m a little bit familiar with CAST. I’m not, I can’t remember off the top of my head, what the acronym stands for, but it’s a, I don’t know if you’ve heard of CAST, uh, but it’s a big organization in, um, inaccessibility and I believe it’s, um, it’s mostly, um, digital accessibility. And then also, I guess, like looking in the future, you have like, uh, even before the summer, you’ve got the faculty symposium coming up yet.
Gloria Johnson: Yeah. So this is, um, something that came out of our, um, our investigations last year into what faculty were interested in. So we sent out a survey, um, which had basically two parts to it. Um, what did you like and dislike about what we did this past year, and then what sorts of activities do you think we should host for the coming year? And the one activity that got the most sort of, we want to do this? Um, out of all the things that we put out was a faculty symposium. So the idea behind the faculty symposium is that other Davidson-Davie faculty have great things that they’re doing in their classroom. And one thing that we can do is learn from each other. So it’s a space to share our work with other faculty and learn from each other. So that’s coming up on March the eighth. Um, so it’ll be two hours from 9:00 AM to 11. And we have six actually, no seven, seven faculty members who will be presenting at the symposium, um, and a combination of three sessions. So there will be, uh, you know, session A and session B in three different time slots basically is how it will run. And we’ll be sending out information on that on Monday, March the 20th March, good grief, February the 28th, my brain went ahead a little too far in time. So on February the 28th, everyone will get an email that will include a link to a Google site. And that Google site will have everything you need to know about the 2022 Davidson-Davie Faculty Symposium. And it will also have a registration form so that folks can go ahead and select which sessions they want to attend. And it’s, this is, this is really cool. So we have a couple of door prizes for the symposium, Thanks to some grant money. We were able to purchase two iPad Airs. So for faculty who sign up for their symposium, um, sessions before March the sixth and attend all their symposium sessions, their names will go in a drawing and we will draw out two winners for those iPad Airs.
Phil Tietjen: Wow. That is quite the quote-unquote “door prize.”
Gloria Johnson: Yes, it is. So that’s the thing that, it’s a really cool thing we’re getting to do this year. That probably won’t come around again really soon. So. But it’s cool. It’s great to be able to do something like that.
Phil Tietjen: So, yeah. Nice. Wow. How great. Um, and is this symposium going to be virtual or hybrid?
Gloria Johnson: It will be virtual, so everything will run through Zoom. We debated having, um, some sessions that were face-to-face, but in the end, we decided that since we only had two hours and since we were dealing with two campuses, it’s still a little bit of the whole COVID thing hanging around, but this year we would try just doing zoom and then maybe for next year expand out.
Phil Tietjen: Yeah. Yeah. That makes total sense. Yep. Yep. Um, oh, I guess one other question I had is, um, for people who are interested in attending the symposium, is there a cost or is it free?
Gloria Johnson: It’s absolutely free. Fantastic. Yeah, this is, this is not anything that anyone has to pay for and it’s Davidson-Davie faculty only. So nobody from other colleges will be there, just us.
Phil Tietjen: Okay, cool. Nice DDCC, special community kind of thing. Excellent. Excellent, great. I’m looking forward to it. Is this the first faculty symposium that the college has had or?
Gloria Johnson: It’s actually not. Um, it’s the first one we’ve had in a long time. Um, we had one, several years ago. I don’t remember how long it’s been, but it’s, it’s probably been four or five years ago maybe. Um, and it was something that people seem to enjoy, but we didn’t do it again. And so it was one of those things that I would be talking to people and they’d be like, you know, are we ever going to do another one there’s symposiums? It would be really cool if we did another symposium. And I heard it enough that that’s why I put it on the interest form at the end of last year. Um, and the, the, you know, it came back that yeah, people actually were from the first one. So this will be hopefully an annual event that the CTL can host, for our Davidson-Davie folks.
Phil Tietjen: Um, it’s definitely got my vote. I love it. It’s great. Um, oh, one other question I had too on the faculty symposium, uh, for the presenters themselves. Um, do you remember off the top of your head if they are from various disciplines, or are they primarily in STEM?
Gloria Johnson: So we’ve got, um, folks from both the Davidson campus and the Davie campus. And we have, um, let’s see folks from STEM and from humanities and from health sciences let’s see, and from the business. So we’ve got a broad selection of, um, uh, faculty from across our college. She will be presenting.
Phil Tiejtjen: Wow, that’s going to make for a lively session set of sessions, you for a symposium.
Gloria Johnson: Yeah. I’m really happy to see that we’ve got, we’ve got people, not just from a single area of campus. We’ve got people from all over who are, who are stepping up for this thing. And we also have both full-time and part-time faculty presenting.
Phil Tietjen: Oh, that’s really great too. Yeah, that’s really great. Um, yeah, cause I think one of the things I really enjoy just as a participant, um, you know, an attendee at these sessions is having an opportunity to kind of get outside of my own disciplinary of education and instructional technology and hear the, you know, ways and methods and styles that, uh, different instructors are approaching from different disciplines. Uh, because inevitably, um, you know, when you’re talking about the kind of shifting to different disciplines, you can have like different takes on things and different approaches. And, um, I think that that really kind of, uh, enriches my kind of, um, repertoire, if you will, of, of teaching methods and what have you. So I really liked that, uh, the variety of disciplines.
Gloria Johnson: Yeah. It’s, it’s a, it’s a great thing. And I think some of the most helpful things I’ve ever learned, I’ve learned from folks outside of my own discipline, um, because it does give you a different perspective and you go, oh, I never thought about doing something like that. Could it work over here? And usually, the answer’s yes.
Phil Tietjen: Yeah. Right, right. Yeah. Well, Hey Gloria, I don’t want to take up too much of your time. So again, I really appreciate you spending time to chat a bit and share a bit about your great work that you’re doing over at the center for teaching and learning, and also, uh, your work as a math instructor here at the college. I really appreciate it. And, uh, and also thank you to the listeners out there for taking the time to listen. Uh, I’m intentionally trying to keep these podcasts like, uh, relative comparatively short and like under 30 minutes. And I think we’re, we’re definitely well under RMI, uh, kind of intended time goal there. Uh, so that’s good. Um, but for many folks out there who, uh, want to listen to this, listen to this and have some thoughts or feedback they want to share by all means. I definitely welcome and appreciate it. So thanks for, thanks again, Gloria and have yourself a great rest of your week. Take care.