“Teaching Gave Me a New Way of Being”: Two WSU Professors Share Their Student-Centered Teaching Styles

Learn about different WSU professors and their unique instructional styles

By Shaymaa Mohammed

“Good education will make you curious for life,” said Jonathan Blake as he leaned forward, eyes sparkling. Then he smiled.

As an adjunct professor in the English Department at Worcester State University, Blake tries to instill his belief in good education in all his students to help them gain confidence and reach their goals.

Each semester, students are introduced to many new professors, each with their own teaching style. Now that the pre-registration and advising period has arrived, many students are looking for classes with instructors whose teaching styles match their learning styles – and an interactive style like Blake’s appears to be one of the most popular.

For Blake, who joined the WSU staff in 1985, teaching fulfilled a part of himself that he couldn’t find anywhere else.

“Teaching gave me a different mode of being,” he said.

Blake describes his teaching style as “Socratic.” He engages every student in his class in a conversation of questions and answers to reach a specific point. At the same time, he has a sense of humor that makes the atmosphere fun for everyone.

Blake’s goal is to make his students believe that “they have the capability to think, to go through the journey and seek their goals.”

“I love to see a light going on in my students eyes when they learn and realize that they have a good feeling,” Blake continued after looking at a stack of papers piled on his desk for few moments.

Blake’s class atmosphere tends to be full of laughs and humor. Most students look on with curiosity and have their attention with him. He uses his body language and eye contact to make his students comfortable.

“It’s okay if you don’t know the answer,” said Blake. “It’s better to say that you don’t know than to stay silent the whole class.”

Dominick Benjamin, a criminal justice major, and Krysta Lopez, a chemistry major, both 18-year-old freshmen, are in professor’s Blake EN 101 class and enjoy his interactive teaching style. They always come to class expecting something new to be added to their lives, they said.

As freshmen, Lopez and Benjamin are getting ready to pick their classes for the first time and are hoping to meet new professors who, like Blake, make their education more interesting.

“Pick a class that you know for sure you will be interested in and relates to you,” Benjamin advised.

“Listen to other people’s experiences with the class that you are interested in, but their opinions should not determine whether you pick the class or not,” Lopez added.

Amy Mosher Berry, an adjunct professor of Urban Studies and Entrepreneurship since 2014, believes that “teaching is the best way for (her) to make a positive difference in the world.”

Berry’s class is another example of an interactive, engaging, and humorous class. However, the main seed that she hopes to plant in students’ minds is the concept of “leadership.”

“[Leadership is] being my best self and hopefully inspiring others to be their best selves, serving the world, being a respectful and humble listener,” said Berry.

Berry’s class atmosphere is friendly and enjoyable. In her class, she stresses the importance of participation in every aspect of life. Everyone in Berry’s class is engaged with a conversation that matches their interests. Her goal is “to create a safe space in which students of all viewpoints can freely express and be heard.”

“Take risks and expand your sense of self,” said Berry, advising her students. “Be kind. Be bold. Do what you love and love what you do. Focus more on the BEING, and the DOING will come!”  

Tammy Truong, 19, a sophomore psychology major from Worcester, describes Barry’s Introduction to Urban Studies class as very interactive in a respectful and understandable way.

A lesson that Truong has learned about picking classes is that students need to know their areas of interest.

“Make sure you research,” Truong said. “Know what matters to you and know what are your priorities.”

Truong also emphasized the importance of the advising period and encouraged other students to see their academic advisors when picking classes.

Dennis W. Quinn, Chair of the English Department and an academic advisor, said that picking a class is not difficult but that the advisor’s role is to guide students.

“We provide guidance to our students to make their schedules more efficient,” said Quinn. “We direct them toward success by knowing their interests and abilities.”  

Good education relies on guidance and good teachers. Blake affirms this idea, saying that education will lead students towards success and make them open to the world.

“SEEK your destiny, find something you are PASSIONATE about,” he said, leaning back against his chair.

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