I wanted to teach before I knew that I wanted to be an anthropologist, but it was anthropology that made the idea of teaching so much more exciting. The theories about how we learn to be part of a community, producing knowledge, and sharing ideas have always been at the intersection of my approach to both sides of academia. As a result, our instructional practices should complement our research practices, and vice versa. My approach to anthropology and teaching are participatory, emphasizing knowing through practice, and embedded in rich conversations about the world. Ultimately, I see teaching as the heart and soul of what I do as a member of the faculty. Good teaching connects our research with our students in a dialogue about what it means to be human.
At UTSA, a majority minority Hispanic Serving Institution, placing value in teaching has been especially important. While I utilize the many techniques and tools of the contemporary classroom, we still have to work to connect courses to the real world of student experiences. In order to make this connection in teaching, I attend to three key themes: 1) Teach with the students, not at them, 2) Enskillment, teaching something useful, and 3) Care. These themes and learning outcomes permeate each of my courses. Throughout, my goal is to teach students to apply social theory in their own lives, critically engage with practices and beliefs, as well as appreciate different points of view.
As a faculty member I’ve enjoy teaching across the curriculum at UTSA. I’ve been recognized for my teaching success with the President’s Award for Outstanding Teaching, but even more important to me are the successes of my undergraduate and graduate students at find meaningful careers and research opportunities. Today, our students need more diverse skills for both academic and non-academic job markets. Toward this end, methods are one way to help them attain their career goals as engaged public scholars. But equally important is creating a classroom experience that engage their worlds. Throughout, my goal is to teach students to apply social theory in their own lives, critically engage with practices and beliefs, as well as appreciate different points of view. These themes and learning outcomes permeate each of my courses
Current and upcoming courses:
Pacific Islands Culture and Society
Theory in Cultural Anthropology
Fall 2024 (planned)
Ecological Research Methods
SElected Recent Courses and Syllabi:
Outstanding Graduate Advisor of Record, College of Liberal and Fine Arts, awarded by the Graduate School at UTSA, 2021.
President’s Distinguished Achievement Award for Teaching Excellence, Tenured Faculty recipient, 2018
Honors Alliance, University of Texas at San Antonio, certificate of appreciation for ‘promoting academic integrity, intelligent living, and meaningful learning,’ April 2009
Teaching with Students
Teaching with the students and not at them requires a participatory approach in order to get the students involved in their own learning. For example, I begin my Anthropology of Superheroes class by stating unequivocally that there is no such thing as the ‘anthropology of superheroes.’ Superheroes don’t exist. There is not a community of superheroes in which ethnographic research can take place. But, as a class, we explore the possibilities of a human community that celebrates the superhero. Students are invited to imagine a whole new research area. As a result, they become active in the creation of a novel ethnographic space. Together we explore the comic worlds, the cinematic universes of Marvel and DC, and the fandom that supports these fictions at local comic conventions, comic book stores, and fan groups in the area. At the same time, we learn methods, theories of race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, multispecies relationships, science, media, etc.
Throughout all of my courses, teaching is about getting students to practice skills, embodying them such that they know and feel confident writing, presenting, reading, etc. regardless of the context in which they have to apply them. Using rubrics for assessment both facilitates and standardized feedback. Importantly, peer review, where appropriate, gives them insight into their own work as well as how others deal with similar problems. Finally, well-structured group activities highlight the social production of knowledge, assessing both participation and their combined effort.
Unlike the US, K-12 education in Papua New Guinea is a privilege that few have the opportunity to complete. I’ve often been struck by the vocal debates around the Samuna Community school that sits atop a ridge among the villages. Parents debate because they care about their community schools, and the teachers care about the students. As a result, they see their students go on to achieve greater things than one might expect from such a rural location. Caring is about being attentive to the needs of students and fighting for those needs to be met. From my time within these communities I’ve come to really appreciate that caring about students is not a trivial concept and its outcomes are not easily assessed. But it matters.