National Teacher Appreciation Week: How UCSB Professors Are Navigating The School Year

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Photo Courtesy of Chris Montgomery

Alexis Crisostomo

Staff Writer

Since the start of the pandemic, distance learning has taken a toll on students and staff alike. This National Teacher Appreciation Week, The Bottom Line looks to show our appreciation for our UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) professors and lecturers by checking in with them to hear about their experiences with at-home teaching. From new hobbies to figuring out unique ways to energize the classroom, here are some highlights of how instructors have been using this time. 

One professor who has been using this time to start their own creative project is professor Tania Israel of the Counseling, Clinical, & School Psychology department. She is excited to share that she has started a Buddhist podcast with some of her friends, through which they explore the different Buddhist dharma teachings. These dharmas range from meditation practices and ethical discipline to teachings of forgiveness and even love. Each session begins with a dharma teaching and a conversation discussing the taught material. Then professor Israel writes a song about the dharma that her friend would sing, and another would close the episode with a guided meditation. 

She describes this experience with great enthusiasm, stating, “It’s been a wonderful way to be creative and connected with some of my closest friends during the pandemic.”

Additionally, professor Israel reveals that her well-curated bookcase background has been praised by the Room Rater on Twitter after one TV appearance.

Another instructor who has taken advantage of this time at home is lecturer Bob Anderson, from the economics department. He is proud to say that at age 50, he has not only learned how to unicycle but is also able to do so outside and on dirt trails. Anderson describes unicycling as an excellent exercise for his core strength and reflexes, and hopes his mindset leads by example in encouraging students to push themselves in ways they can during the pandemic. 

“Don’t let circumstances beyond your control limit you,” he shares insightfully.

During this time, Anderson reflects on his favorite place in UCSB, and why it is in front of the Chem 1179 lecture hall. It was there, he recalls, that he spotted the “smoking hot girl” from 32 years ago that is now his wife (and quarantine partner) today. 

Meanwhile, instructors like professor Ingrid Banks of the Black studies department have taken it upon themselves to keep up the energy while teaching at home. When she taught her 19th Century African American History course last spring quarter, she decided to host her office hours in a way that would encourage movement during a usually stifled Zoom setting. Every time a student answered a question “exceptionally well,” she would get up from her chair and do a lap around her dining room table. Through this, Dr. Banks enthusiastically emphasized the themes of celebration and cardio. 

“All of us needed those laughs,” she states, “and I needed to move … I’m too old for all this sitting!”

She disclosed a humorous account of her first time with online teaching with the GauchoSpace interface. For the same class, Dr. Banks had failed to hide the questions of her timed quizzes for at least three weeks into the quarter. What she found hilarious was that none of the students ever told her about the error. Luckily, moving forward with distance learning, she has learned more about the interface and continues to motivate students through her humor. 

Finally, one instructor who has combined personal hobbies and work is Professor Kay Young of the English and Comparative Literature department. While Dr. Young has taken up hat collecting these past months, the pandemic has not stopped her from showing them off to her students through Zoom. From bonnets to tiaras, she hopes to lift her students’ spirits and help brighten their day with her collection.

As we finish what is (hopefully) our last digital spring quarter, it is interesting to see how professors, lecturers, and other staff have used their time at home. This May, The Bottom Line wishes instructors a happy National Teacher Appreciation Week and invites students to greet their own favorite professors as well.