“.. the work of the intellectual life includes not only the scholarship of discovering knowledge, but also the scholarship of integrating knowledge, the scholarship of applying knowledge, and the scholarship of teaching.”
…And Just How Did I Get Here?
My first “true” teaching experiences came as somewhat of a surprise. Sure, I had “taught” my friends when they hit some material in pharmacy school that I happened to understand better than them. But, they did the same for me when I couldn’t quite grasp a concept (or two!). It was reciprocity at its best, but I never really felt like I was “teaching”. That is, not until I had to present some of my clinical rotation experiences with my academic compatriots. This was different. This was going to be in front of 40 or 50 people, not the two or three I was comfortable with. It was a 20 minute, structured presentation. PowerPoint™ was even going to be involved! It all sounds sophomoric now, but that kind of presentation is a big deal to someone without speaking experience.
So how did it go? It went great! After all, I was talking about my clinical rotation experiences. Who would have been a better expert on my experiences than me? Plus, I received lots of great feedback. One person said, “You are an excellent speaker.” “You should really consider teaching,” said another. Not to fool myself. I knew that the ability to speak well and to teach were comrades, but they were still two different talents. But the lamp had been lit: I had to share information with others! All this happened around the time when I had some big decisions to make. Should I complete a residency? What about going into retail? I ultimately decided to pursue a Ph.D. in the social and behavioral sides of pharmacy, but my decision was grounded on the fact that I loved to share what I knew.
When I first went to graduate school to pursue a Ph.D. in Pharmacy Administration at The University of Mississippi I was paired with Dr. Alicia Bouldin, primarily because of our similar interests in advancing education. Being my first faculty advisor, I think she felt it was her duty to socialize me into academic life, so she gave me a copy of McKeachie’s Teaching Tips as a “housewarming” present. Even after 5 years of use, it is a gift that still holds a special place on my bookshelf. Dr. Bouldin has been a tremendous influence on my life. When I was down-and-out about what it meant to be a teacher, she shared with me quote from the accomplished and influential American educator Ernest Boyer:
“…the work of intellectual life includes not only the scholarship of discovering knowledge, but also the scholarship of integrating knowledge, the scholarship of applying knowledge, and the scholarship of teaching.”
These four italicized words – discovering, integrating, applying, and teaching – adorn the front cover of my teaching portfolio (the paper version). They have become my anthem of how I plan to contribute to society.
My involvement in the classroom has been very rewarding. For example, my interests in testing and measurement has led me to “champion” item analysis techniques among the graduate students and (when given the chance) to departments outside pharmacy administration. As an extension of these interests, the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Dr. Marvin Wilson, asked me to speak to the graduating PharmD students about the NAPLEX, mainly focusing on the computer adaptive testing structure of the exam and at the underlying item-response theory that directs the test. I have been able to share this interest each year with the graduating PharmD classes since 2006. I have also received exceptional feedback from my students, with some telling me, “you have found your calling” or “I wish I had you in class every day.” This encouragement made it difficult to ignore academia as my ultimate career path. Aside from giving me support through spoken words, my students also have recognized me for my dedication in the classroom by voting me “TA of the Year”. What an honor! I was subsequently nominated for a campus-wide teaching assistant award. Unfortunately that award went to another deserving graduate student, but I was very humbled to have been recognized at the University level for my contribution to their learning.
Although, my most recent training has allowed me to explore the social and behavioral aspects of health care, I consider myself a pharmacist first. I have over 13 years of experience in community pharmacies (3 as a technician, 4 as a pharmacy extern, and 6 as a pharmacist). Being a practicing pharmacist, I feel that I will be in a strong position to contribute to the next generation of pharmacists. I think this adds to my credibility in the classroom and helps keep my teaching and examples relevant. Although my current role at The University of Mississippi involves mainly research, I stay connected to teaching and mentoring students in the pharmacy program at The University of Mississippi through guest lectures and in my role as faculty advisor of the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacists (AMCP) student chapter. I am also involved in mentoring graduate students in the Department of Pharmacy Administration through my research program.
My primary goal as a teacher is to imbue students with my appreciation for information while providing both relevant and engaging learning opportunities so they never have to silently wonder, “Why do I have to learn this?” Keeping students engaged is far easier than trying to recapture their attention once it has been lost or reassigned.
Furthermore, I feel it is my personal responsibility to the student:
- to provide critical thinking activities which facilitate knowledge internalization,
- to assimilate current, credible information when organizing learing materials,
- to create an environment which fosters professional socialization,
- to be fair and unbiased in assessments,
- to challenge each student, regardless of their current abilities, and
- to never ask for something I would not do myself.