I was hired at Penn State by Larry Ramsey
as a postdoctoral research associate with no teaching responsibilities.
Three times during my time there the department was short of regular
Having had enjoyable experience for four years as a graduate teaching assistant,
I was eager to teach again and to gain more formal classroom experience.
All three times I volunteered and was allowed
to take responsibility for an undergraduate course.
Those courses were Astronomy 291 (Astronomical Methods & the Solar System; twice), required for the major, and Astronomy 001, our broad introductory course for non-majors.
In the classroom I interact with the students as much as possible while attempting to give clear and complete presentations of material. My students are strongly encouraged to meet with me at other times if they are having any trouble understanding the material or want to discuss things further.
I have some evidence that I have been a successful teacher. Penn State students are tested for various skills periodically throughout their time here. Those testing results have identified an association of my classes with "particularly high gains" in analytical and critical thinking skills. I believe this is due in part to the nature of the classes, but also to my attempts at drawing connections between physical principles in astronomy and everyday life experiences.
Public education is also important to me. The low scientific literacy of Americans of all ages is highly disturbing. My modest response has been to interact with the public in several ways. I occasionally volunteer to help with our department's outreach efforts. This has included giving a short talk and slide show presentation at Penn State's Shaver's Creek Environmental Center. I have also given tours of Penn State's Black Moshannon Observatory to a number of local home schooling families and an elementary school group.