Rita Straubhaar


Teaching Philosophy

As far back as I remember, I was often found playing “school.”  I would mimic my first grade teacher’s mannerisms. Honestly, I am not sure how I understood all of the students because I was deaf and all my imaginary students were hearing. In my little girl’s imagination, I believed that I had Super Powers to telepathically understand my students. Growing up, I wanted to really be one of two things; either a veterinarian or a teacher. At first, I chose becoming a veterinarian because I realized that I wasn’t privy to Super Powers and my deafness was here to stay. But, after one semester of college chemistry, I realized two things: my highschool science teachers made science fun, and they totally rocked as teachers! Unfortunately college wasn’t the same, so I lost some of that love for science– also I didn’t enjoy working in isolation in the labs.

So it took me a while to figure out, but I finally found my calling as a professor of ASL and Deaf Studies. Along my journey to where I am today, I have learned quite a bit about what makes for a successful teacher and what really is my teaching philosophy. In a nutshell, it’s my goal to not only teach students about ASL and Deaf Culture, but also to inspire them to open their minds to new cultures and about pursuing their dreams with an emphasis on being the best possible student, and person.

I have been using the Flipped Classroom method for a while now. The students are required to watch a video and do the exercises in the course book ahead of time. When they come to class it’s more of a review and refinement of their production. I notice that this has a significant influence on their potential to succeed in the course.  I also integrate collaborative learning. I divide the students into groups and assign them a small portion of the day’s lesson. When they convene again in class, they first share what they learned with others in the same group, then break up into smaller groups. From there, they share and compare what they learned from their first group.

While my teaching philosophy changes over time, one thing is consistent:  the expectation that students will rise to the challenge. I set high standards. Some students who are not accustomed to high standards may struggle a bit in the beginning, but if I challenge them and ask them how they plan to improve their grades, they most often buckle down and put more energy into it and come out with a better grade. The end result is a higher caliber student who is now ready for new challenges.  For information on my work in the Fellows Program, please see my report on Collaborative Learning in Foreign Language Classes.