New Appreciation for MATC
Employing effective teaching methods and studying the way the brain develops have long been important to Toshiba Adams, instructor and instructional chair for MATC's Early Childhood Education Associate Degree program. Adams also is the curriculum coordinator for MATC's Educational Research and Dissemination (ER&D) department, helping to develop and coordinate classes on teaching and the use of new technology in the classroom for MATC instructors. ER&D is a professional development initiative sponsored by MATC and the American Federation of Teachers Local 212.
She juggles her jobs as curriculum coordinator, instructor and instructional chair along with being a mother to two teenagers. "The days fly by," she said. "It never feels like work to me because I'm doing what I enjoy. I don't know how I'll ever retire. I get a good feeling about what I do each day, so I rest easy at night."
Her devotion to developing the mind began 15 years ago when she gave birth to her son. She decided to open a day care center so she would not have to leave him each day to go to work. "I so desperately wanted to be there for him," Adams said. "I couldn't bear to pass him over so someone else could take care of him during the days."
In collaboration with Head Start, she opened her day care center. "I love being able to help young people grow and develop," she said. "Healthy development as a child can impact your whole life. What you do in the first couple years is so important."
Adams went on to study early childhood education, earning a master's degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Adams taught at UWM and for community-based organizations until she was offered a position teaching at MATC six years ago.
She recently took on the position as instructional chair in addition to teaching two online courses for the early childhood education program. Being instructional chair includes managerial and administrative work and connects Adams with many college-wide initiatives. "It has opened my eyes to the way the college works as a whole," Adams said. "I also have gained a better appreciation and understanding of MATC's core values. I think MATC is an awesome college. Every semester, I learn something new about what the college offers."
Most recently, Adams also added responsibility as curriculum coordinator for ER&D.
She provides instructors with peer-to-peer instructional support, arranges for instructors to teach faculty development courses, develops curriculum and provides other professional development support for instructors.
Much of that work involves trying to anticipate the needs of the college in terms of technology tools used in teaching, new teaching methods and cultural relevancy. Adams' work in teaching technology in the classroom ranges from instruction on Blackboard, the college's standard online teaching and organization tool; to designing videos, using Skype, video streaming, voice thread, social media, computer games -- any cutting edge tool available to help keep students engaged in learning.
Toshiba Adams works with Brian Moran,
Keeping Students Engaged in Learning
MATC culinary arts instructor, in the Faculty Innovation Center.
"Young people can't stay focused for a three-hour lecture," Adams said. "Studies show that after about 12 minutes of lecture, you start to lose their attention. So then you go onto another teaching method and keep pulling out tricks to keep them with you. I believe it's my responsibility to keep the students engaged."
She said that most instructors are excited by learning new teaching methods. For the most part, students also are very appreciative of the use of new technology in the classroom as well. "Some students are resistant to new technology," she said. "But eventually, they come around."
"I think MATC is an awesome college. Every semester, I learn something new about what the college offers."
-- Toshiba Adams
Oftentimes, face-to-face teaching is still the most effective method, according to Adams. "In face-to-face classes, you know immediately when a student is 'not getting it,'" she said. In an online environment, reading student assignments can tip teachers off to when students are getting "off track." That's when Adams is likely to ask a student to come to campus to meet with her or at least talk on the phone. She keeps regular online office hours in a chat forum. Like all MATC instructors, she also has office hours to meet with students in person.
Her curriculum support job is not strictly about new technology, though. Currently, Adams is working with members of the President's Diversity Council, including MATC instructors Jacqueline Robinson, Pablo Muirhead and Deborah Hoem-Esparza, to develop
a course to help raise awareness of cultural differences relating to race, class and gender. Because MATC has such a diverse student population, it is extremely important to make sure teachers are aware of these differences. She cited an example of recently learning that Asian students tend to be very quiet in class as a show of respect for their instructors. "They aren't conditioned to challenge a teacher or offer an opinion. They see that as rude," Adams said. Understanding cultural differences like this helps to make MATC instructors more effective, she explained.
Adams intends to keep learning about teaching and sharing her knowledge with her colleagues for a long time. "I feel like I'm really serving a purpose here," she said.