Our new Experience Learning initiative recognizes that learning is enhanced—and more enjoyable—when lessons are used to experiment, solve problems, and innovate. It challenges faculty to look for new and creative ways to work with students. As part of Faculty Appreciation Week 2016, here is a look at two College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences faculty members who “go the extra mile” in their teaching, research, and outreach.
Susan Groenke tries to figure out how to motivate adolescents to read and write—and then shares that knowledge with current and future teachers.
“Young people will read and write if we let them. I think our responsibility as educators is creating the time and space that motivate young people to engage with texts—both those they read and those they write—in personally meaningful and fulfilling ways,” said Groenke, an associate professor of English education in the Department of Theory and Practice in Teacher Education and director of the Center for Children’s and Young Adult Literature (CCYAL).
Groenke teaches a variety of courses that allow her students to hone their teaching skills in true classroom settings.
In a summer young adult literature course, novice and veteran teachers become “Book Buddies” with children at the Haslam Boys and Girls Club. During this five-week program, the teachers are paired with local youth to motivate the youngsters to read during the summer months.
“Susan Groenke is a gift to both UT and the greater Knoxville community,” said Bob Rider, dean of the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences. “She is responsible for bringing the Freedom School to Knoxville so that children living in disadvantaged communities here can be exposed to meaningful and culturally appropriate literature. Susan is an outstanding representative of our college, both here in Knoxville and throughout the United States, and is deeply committed to helping students, whether they be in the public schools or here at the university.”
Groenke also teaches a methods course in which student teachers—who are completing a one-year residency in area schools—observe professional teachers who are particularly good at teaching reading and writing and leading classroom discussions. After watching these exemplary teachers in action, the students come back to Groenke’s class to talk about what they’ve learned.
In Groenke’s composition pedagogy course—a course that teaches the practice of teaching writing—she has her UT students serve as writing tutors for local high school students.
“It’s one thing for me to talk about composition pedagogy to my students, but sometimes they don’t have a real-world context to put it in,” she said. “So I thought that putting my students in a writing classroom as tutors—at the same time that they’re learning about composition pedagogy in my course—would give them a context in which to actually practice the theories, ideas, and strategies we toss around in class.”
Through this experience, students see the problems many adolescents face when writing, such as having trouble generating ideas for writing or being overly reliant on the teacher to provide a structure or purpose for writing. They also learn about the politics of teaching.
“We have new state standards that emphasize student writing more so than in the past, so teachers are feeling the pressure to meet these new standards and change their instruction accordingly,” she said. “It’s helpful for my students—beginning teachers—to witness how policy influences teacher decision-making and autonomy in the classroom so they can begin to think of ways to negotiate that when they’re in their future classrooms.”
Angela Wozencroft’s career is an ongoing exercise in experiential learning.
She oversees UT students who work at Camp Koinonia, Camp Oginali, Koinonia Retreat, Vision Camp, and Project TRiPS—all camps for youth with a variety of disabilities.
Wozencroft is an associate professor in therapeutic recreation, which is a treatment service designed to help people who are ill or disabled overcome limitations and gain health, wellness, and independence.
Her special interest is helping the helpers—understanding the needs of therapeutic recreation professionals.
“For me, some of the most intriguing issues in therapeutic recreation relate to professionals in the field and the issues they face,” said Wozencroft. “Understanding topics like compassion fatigue among TR practitioners brings new insight to the profession, and that is exciting to me.”
Wozencroft directs more than two hundred UT students who serve as counselors and staff at Camp Koinonia, a week-long outdoor education program for children ages seven to twenty-one who have multiple disabilities. Camp Koinonia is a service learning course in which Wozencroft collaborates with two other instructors to provide fourteen weeks of course lectures to prepare students for working with children with disabilties in the camp setting.
Wozencroft is also the program director for Camp Oginali, an annual weekend camp for individuals with Down syndrome; Koinonia Retreat; and Vision Camp—all involving UT students who work as counselors.
“As dean of the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences, I continue to be amazed at the dedication and commitment our faculty display in the work they do for vulnerable populations,” said Rider. “Angela Wozencroft is among the very best in this regard. Her work with individuals with disabilities, through the various camps and programs she directs, has added both enjoyment and quality to the lives of hundreds of girls and boys with special needs who reside in East Tennessee. Further, the manner in which she engages her students in this work, here at UT, is a testament to her dedication to their growth as they pursue their undergraduate and graduate degrees in therapeutic recreation.”
Wozencroft teaches a service-learning course called Project TRiPS (Therapeutic Recreation in Public Schools). Each semester her students visit special education classrooms once a week to provide an hour of therapeutic recreation activities to youth with disabilities.
“My teaching philosophy is grounded in Plutarch’s belief that the mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled,” said Wozencroft. “I continually think about this quote as I feel it is my calling to ignite students’ interests in both learning and in the field of therapeutic recreation.”
In addition to her role as director, Wozencroft serves as a board member on the Camp Koinonia Foundation board and is a member of the Southeast Recreational Therapy Symposium’s board. She also serves on the American Therapeutic Recreation Association’s Research Committee and the editorial board for the American Journal of Recreation Therapy.
This spring, Wozencroft will complete the 2015–16 UT Leadership Program, which further develops the leadership skills of participants involved.
Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, email@example.com)