The Alumni Association is honoring 26 NC State professors with the 2014 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 Karen Hollebrands, an associate professor of education. Hollebrands is one of seven professors being recognized as a Distinguished Undergraduate Professor.
What prompted you to become a professor? I started my career as a high school mathematics teacher. While I was teaching, I became interested in research and understanding how students learn and think about mathematics. As a professor, I have had opportunities to teach undergraduate and graduate students, conduct research, and engage in service activities with high school teachers and students. It is a wonderful profession!
What are the keys to being a successful professor? I think there are three big keys: knowledge of students, understanding of content and pedagogical skills. It is really important for teachers to know and connect with students. I feel it is important to be approachable so students feel comfortable asking questions and seeking assistance. It is also important to know the content you are teaching well and view that content from the perspective of a learner. Teachers need to remember what it was like when they were first learning the content they are teaching and the struggles students might have in understanding it. Teachers also need to be familiar with a variety of different strategies to use with students and keep up to date on new pedagogical techniques.
What gives you the greatest satisfaction as a professor? I really enjoy observing students learn new ideas and skills and apply them in school settings. Often I am able to teach students during their junior year and then observe them when they are student teaching. It is very rewarding to observe students transition from student to teacher and put into practice the concepts and skills they have learned.