The Alumni Association is honoring 21 NC State professors with the 2013 Faculty Awards for their outstanding work in the classroom, in the laboratory and in the field. We talked (via email) with some of the recipients about their work and the keys to being a successful professor.
Today we’re visiting with Margaret Blanchard, an associate professor of science education in the College of Education. Blanchard, who is also research director of The Science House at NC State, is one of three professors being recognized for Outstanding Extension and Outreach.
What prompted you to become a professor? When I entered graduate school, I had been teaching high school and middle school science for 6 years and coaching girls’ soccer and track. Initially, I thought I might become a middle school principal. Then, I worked on developing science curricula and teachers’ manuals for a website on the Florida Panther and an Energy CD, which was very interesting. Next, I supervised student teachers and taught a methods course and really enjoyed teaching at the college level to prepare future science teachers. Finally, I worked on several research projects and wrote my first grant proposal, which was funded. I decided that since I liked all of these things, I would be able to do them all if I obtained a faculty position in a College of Education. So I guess you might say that I eased into the decision to become a professor! I think the lesson is to experience as much as you can as a student, to find out what you like and to grow the skills you will need in the future.
What are the keys to being a successful teacher/professor? My #1 goal as a teacher is to treat students with respect. I also am convinced that the key to success in nearly anything is time management, strategic effort, and passion. I use a big board in my office to chart all stages of my grants, conference proposals, manuscripts, and other major deadlines. Every day I plan by making a list and I establish daily, weekly, monthly, and annual goals, and schedule regular meetings to review plans and revise them. That said, I always have time to talk to colleagues and students. One of the things I tell my students is that ‘W-O-R-K’ is a 4 letter word, so the key is to make the work fun. I try to choose positive and enjoyable colleagues who also work hard, and focus on research that I find interesting and rewarding. If something feels too hard, you may not be that interested in it.
What gives you the greatest satisfaction as a professor? There are so many aspects of this work that are satisfying! The relationships I seek to develop with my students and collaborators are very satisfying. It is also great to feel as though the work I am involved with immediately improves the lives of students, teachers, and their schools as well as having implications for other educational researchers. Later, for those graduate students who become professors, we will meet at conferences once or twice a year and find ways to collaborate or act as sounding boards for each other and maintain our friendships. The funny thing about becoming a professor is that it can feel like you are always in school, keeping the student calendar and constantly learning from the research you and your students are doing.