Tanya Atwater
Teaching Philosophy



I feel a profound delight in, love for, reverence for the natural world. My parents gave me this gift of passion and my goal is to pass it on to as many minds as I possibly can. I believe that caring involves deep familiarity and understanding. Thus, my job as a geoscience educator is to help as many students as possible to know and understand and respect our planet, i.e., to help them really care about it and act on their caring. In lecture, I used to think I wasn't a good scientist if I admitted my passion. No more. In the last few years I have adopted a style of expressing my delight along with sharing why I'm delighted - the intricate order and sense (and, sometimes, irony) of how things work - wonderful!
   In lower division lectures I present and explore the most beautiful examples I can find for each phenomenon - giant crystals, beautiful slide images, the most pleasing map presentations, the most vivid visualizations I can muster. Of course, I also insist that they read and learn the basic material and I keep a running feedback going to reinforce this: "question of the day" each lecture, term papers, lab reports, tests. I also believe in the crucial importance of personal, "hands on" experience and have revamped the labs to be more fun and to include more field experience. I have also co-run our lower division field trips (Geology 18, 19) that are highlights for many students (and for me as well - California is such a geologic treasure trove). My goal with our non-major students is to instill life-long curiosity and interest and caring for the earth. I hope to get them to choose to read geological articles in the paper, to choose nature programs over a sit coms, to view earth problems as problems that are interesting and vital, that deserve their attention.
   In upper division and graduate classes, I am primarily trying to help the students prepare for their professional lives. I still include my passion (can't help it) but it is only a reinforcement of a passion most of them have already. My specialty, plate tectonics, is an excellent vehicle for bringing together disparate information from their other geo-classes and for constructing a broader mental order - a world image. I also include many activities in these classes that develop important skills: map interpretation, literature searching, paper writing and critiquing, cooperative learning, oral presentation.
   I take my earth-love "crusade" to the larger community whenever I can manage it. I regularly present lecture-slide shows for many civic and school groups (and often get invited back for more). In recent years I've been concentrating on K-9 teachers in the belief that this is the best way to reach the broader future citizenry. I feel great respect for this hard working group of teachers and I love their energy and fun and insight. It is a pleasure to teach/empower them about earth subjects and to help them figure out engaging ways to pass on their new knowledge.
   I feel a great respect for all the students I deal with. They are our brightest, our future leaders, and they are going to have to deal with a very unstable and unpredictable world. I sympathize with their ambivalence and cheer their initiatives and successes. I respect their choices, including the choice by some to blow off school, and I am as clear with them as possible about the consequences, good and bad, of their various choices. I go to some lengths to help students who are putting in the effort to succeed and, also, to help students who are not getting it together to be more realistic about their activities and their options. I am an undergraduate faculty advisor in our department and for many years have shared (with a few other faculty) the task of individually welcoming, programming and advising our majors. Some students see me just once or twice, for their class lists, but many others return regularly for advice and friendship and help (and advocacy when needed). I really get a kick out of watching individual students grow and find their powers and acquire self confidence and clarity.

[People]  [Research]  [Resources]  [Alumni] 
[Life]  [Graduate]  [Undergrad]  [Outreach]