The Secret Sauce

Teaching style can be kind of like a secret sauce. It’s that special thing that makes you unique, a kind of trademark. As a high school student I had certainly thought that I might like to become a teacher at some point, but it wasn’t until years later that I discovered my passion for teaching. My journey through undergraduate education was nontraditional. I took a five year break from classes and worked at Saggio’s Pizzeria in my hometown of Albuquerque. By the time I left, I had performed every job in the restaurant and was working at a new drive-thru store that I helped open. My favorite job during this time was being a pizza maker. It was one of the biggest and busiest restaurants in town and it was really fun to be running around a flour covered kitchen making pizzas and calzones as fast as I could. Another part of this job that I really enjoyed was getting to train the new employees. I was very passionate about the food that I made and I enjoyed teaching new people how to make the most beautiful mediterranean pizza or how to cut the perfect leaf-shaped vent holes in a calzone. When I was reading the material from Professor Fowler, it made me think of my experience in the pizzeria. I enjoyed teaching the material because it was something that I was really passionate about. It also made me recognize that teaching in a classroom requires awareness of so many other important details aside from just being passionate.

I have not yet had the opportunity to teach a class, so it is difficult to say what my teaching style is. I have been a TA for two mechanical engineering labs however, and I think I can say I want to be a teacher who promotes learning above all else. I think I will be able to relate to students who do not succeed in traditional classrooms because I am a student who really struggles in those environments. Becoming a mentor to students is something that really drives me.

Professor Fowler also talks about nerves, how they effect teaching and how they can be leveraged to be, as Fowler says, “positive attributes”. I like this point and I think that learning to harness one’s nervousness is an essential skill even for those who do not “perform” as teachers do, in front of people everyday. I began playing the conga drums when I was 10 years old and began performing in front of crowds soon after. I was incredibly nervous the first time that I walked out onto a stage to perform. It was so scary, but it was also really exciting. I look forward to developing my teaching so that I can get that same excitement after a great lecture.

While I may not know what my teaching style or technique will look like, I do know that like any good pizza you must consider all the ingredients and how they come together to make something truly special. You must take care and have patience with the dough and you have to have good sauce and good cheese but never too much of either! As a teacher you must foster a safe and patient environment and include the right amounts of structure and freedom, without too much of either, to create that special space where learning flourishes.