Certificate in Faculty Preparation Student Spotlight: Joan Carpenter

Joan Carpenter

Please tell us about yourself.

California has been my home my whole life and I have a passion for the great outdoors. I earned my environmental resource engineering B.S. degree from Humboldt State University in 1987. From 1987-2017, I worked as a civil engineer in the Santa Cruz and Monterey area. My engineering work experience included everything from recovery from the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in Santa Cruz to campground improvements at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park in Monterey. Once retired, I moved back to northern California where I had attended college. I started teaching AutoCAD and engineering drafting at College of the Redwoods (CR) in the fall of 2019, then transitioned to distance education when COVID-19 hit during my second semester. 

I encourage a problem solving method that acknowledges the need to adapt and change as we go forward, and also to try things out to see if they work. My teaching philosophy is a merging of science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM). My creative outlet, besides my engineering work, has been exploring the outdoors, gardening, and painting. 

What motivated you to enroll in the Certificate of Faculty Preparation: Teaching in Higher Education Program?

As soon as I was hired to teach drafting, I began to feel very overwhelmed. Although I knew my subject matter well enough, there were a multitude of things in a semester-long course that I was unprepared for. Also, due to COVID-19, I was unable to work with a mentor. I inherited a course shell, which was very well prepared by a longtime teacher. As I went forward with teaching, I felt poorly prepared to change or modify the course, because I did not really know how to structure my class. When I saw the Cal Poly Humboldt Certificate in Faculty Preparation: Teaching in Higher Education program, I knew right away that it would be a good next step for my teaching work. 

How has the program positively impacted your personal/or professional life?

My overall outlook about teaching has really been transformed by the certificate courses. I have more confidence in managing and changing my course materials. I am able to think of unique new exercises to address the course learning objectives. I am much better at evaluating progress by students and have a quiver full of tools for teaching, communication, and implementing new material. 

What are your goals after completing the certificate?

As I approach the end of the certificate, I am hoping to continue teaching at College of the Redwoods (CR) and also be able to teach part time at Cal Poly Humboldt in the same area of study. 

What were/are the most memorable growth moments for you in the program?

My personal best moment in the course was delving into the area of how people learn. As an engineer, I like to know how things work. I definitely strengthened my understanding of how to make emotional connections in the classroom so that every student feels welcome and ready to learn. It’s also been wonderful for me to interact in the discussions with other educators. Each person in the class has a unique teaching experience. I spent a lot of time reading the discussion posts that others wrote because their insights were different from my own and drew me into their thoughts and experiences. 

What else would you like to share about your experience as a student in the Certificate in Faculty Preparation program?

Probably the best combination was to be teaching at CR while taking this certificate. Every week I would find an immediate use for the newest topic from the certificate courses as I completed a reading. No sooner than I finished my homework for how to handle difficult situations, I would have a discussion thread in my online course that needed gentle but firm support from me to keep it on track. The course is definitely practical preparation for anyone teaching or planning to teach in higher education.