This portfolio is a reflection of my work as faculty at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. I hope it accurately communicates the energy and creativity with which I approach teaching, the affection and commitment I have toward students, and the spirit of professionalism I bring to the broader community.
I have taught the data structures course at our university for 7 consecutive years. During that time it has grown from 200 students per semester to 800 in Fall, 2015. I feel very fortunate to teach this particular class—to oversee the students’ intellectual growth at exactly the point they begin to broaden their view of programming into a topic for deep and analytical contemplation, as a tool for technical communication, and as an instrument for mathematical expression. My teaching statement and course materials, are intended to illustrate clarity, challenge, and fun—-the things students value as they learn!
My office is a hub of activity. Students know me to be a friendly source of support and advice as they navigate courses, internships, job offers, etc. I try to be particularly available to underrepresented groups, but of course, all students are welcome. I have sponsored dozens of Independent Study projects because students know I revel in their discovery and because they trust me to challenge them in meaningful ways. Aside from informal advising, I am the faculty advisor to our two largest student organizations—Women in Computer Science, and the ACM—and an annual judge at HackIllinois, our campus’ large hackathon.
Approximately a year ago I was invited to be a Teaching Academy Fellow within the College of Engineering’s Academy for Excellence in Engineering Education. The details of my participation in that organization are chronicled in an annual report I have included in this portfolio. Most poignantly, that position has given me a voice as a leader among teaching faculty within department, college, and university. I use the platform to proselytize among my peers for modern classroom strategies like peer instruction and active learning, to advocate for effective teaching evaluation, to create community among those of us with similar professional aspirations, and to mentor newer teachers. It is this last role that I find most challenging and rewarding—it is personal, mutually inspiring (I hope), and one of the most effective tools for battling the institutional barriers associated with imbalances in stature, and underrepresentation in STEM.
I first presented the CSUnplugged activity “Muddy City” to third graders in 1993. Shortly after, I joined Lenny Pitt and Tom Magliery (both UIUC) as one of the MathManiaCS doing local outreach, teacher professional development, and lesson design. Now I am on a short list of departmental resources for presentations to camps, tours, schools, etc. and I am always happy to contribute. My current outreach efforts are more formal: I oversee GEMS, our summer camp for middle school girls, and I have recently begun to work with colleagues in the College of Education building new curricula and evaluating their efficacy at a local elementary school. I am very excited to see computer science education join the mainstream (due to the enduring hard work of organizations like NCWIT, CSTA, NSF, and more recently Code.org), so that participation in computing curriculum development and deployment is no longer considered just a part of informal and extra-curricular education.