In addition to teaching, I serve on the board of a very high profile national organization, with international conversations and connections on a daily basis. I am currently enrolled in an on-line PhD program, where I have been dealing for three years with professional educators from across the US and overseas. Both of these experiences have opened my own life up to a wealth of learning opportunities from others, particularly from those whose professional and life experience is different from my own.
The College of Southern Nevada is located in the Las Vegas market, the fastest growing urban area in the nation for all but one of the past fifteen years. The transient nature of the market brings with it a wide diversity of ethnic, cultural and language groups, including a massive growth in both Hispanic and African American communities. The college also has an aggressive international program, which includes a larger than normal English as a Second Language population. We have active Community College High School programs, homeless outreach, senior citizen and workforce education and retraining programs.
I have taught at all three primary campus locations, the “tech” centers, Nellis Air Force Base and various satellite CSN campus locations. My experience includes teaching courses in all of the geographic and diverse environments Clark Country Nevada has to offer.
In addition, I spent almost ten years teaching acting at a minority owned business to an extremely diverse population of students age 4 to senior citizens.
Southern Nevada includes a work force and retired community spanning much of the globe in origin and identification. References I can provide on request include students from Eastern and Western Europe, Africa, the Middle East, India, Mongolia, the Pacific Rim, Australia, South America, Central America, the Caribbean and Mexico.
I have found that the diversity of the classroom is advantageous in teaching speech and communication as in those courses students contribute their backgrounds, experiences and opinions to the discourse of the classroom. The students bring first hand examples of why we need to be aware of the “noise/screens/filters” that get in the way with truly listening and communicating with each other, of the importance of understanding and participating with civic responsibility, the universality of many aspects of the world around us and the way we communicate with each other.
As a member of the National Board of Directors of the Screen Actors Guild, I serve on a wide range of active national and international committees, including the Ethnic Opportunity Committee and the National Spanish Language Media Task Force. The nature of the organization encourages diversity and active representation of minorities in governance.
Diverse opinions and interpretations of communication come with the diversity of the students, in economics, in gender, in ethic or racial identification, and in personal experiences. When students are allowed to openly share their views, frustrations, life experiences, they begin to open up to the world of the other students. Communication and understanding become possible. At times I serve as a moderator, making sure that the discussion and interaction ties directly to the subject matter of the course. I also believe in open and honest disclosure to facilitate the type of comradely and improvement in grades which occur every semester in my course sections.
When particular segments of the population may be missing from a given section, I bring in (with the permission of the student) examples from previous course sections, from current media, or from courses I am now or have previously taken. The students appreciate honest representation of the work or presentation of previous students, my own course room experience and current events (if tied to their current needs or experience).
Students with disabilities offer the opportunity to, by example, enrich the classroom experience for all students. I recall an hearing impaired student who took me aside and asked if the students doing presentations could look his direction more often and if he could have additional office time to review concepts he may miss by not seeing my lips or by lacking the full audio content of the course. I agreed to both.
A final note on the ESL students. When encouraged they overcome their fear of presenting in English and offer perhaps the most unfiltered view of their culture and society possible without visiting the actual countries. I offer personal coaching, office hours, e-mail response and a range of Web based instruction supplements for these students on an as needed basis. A computer translator is allowed in the classroom and when taking exams. I strongly encourage them to become an active part of the class, partnering in research and study with a native English speaker. Both students benefit from the pairing.
Overall I want to encourage the supportive, collaborative, and substantive goals of what some educators terms “the learning community”.