Molly Coffman was recently awarded the On Campus Facilitator of the Year for the 2012-2013 school year, by the students and faculty of Bethel University. She sat down with us to talk about her passion for teaching, what Bethel means to her, and her advice to adult learners.
What classes to you teach?
Molly: I teach Expository Writing, Writing about Literature, Mark Twain, and 20th Century American Drama, mostly at the Jackson campus with an occasional class in McKenzie.
How long have you taught at Bethel?
Molly: I have taught at Bethel for six years.
What teaching methods, experience or attitude do you think contributed to winning this wonderful award?
Molly: I try to make class time engaging through a variety of activities, writing, sharing, and discussing. Also, I try to give students choice and voice in their writing and research topics to make the class meaningful and relevant to their lives personally and professionally. Finally, I try to show my enthusiasm for my subject and for learning, to provide feedback regularly, and to maintain clear and open communication lines with my students.
Have you always wanted to be a teacher?
Molly: Since I was in elementary school, I have wanted to be a teacher. Buying school supplies made me giddy (okay, it still does), and I always loved going to school. I’ve always loved reading, writing, and learning. If someone would pay me to go to school, “professional student” would be my career of choice, so I suppose teaching is about as about as close to that dream as I can get. Seriously, I feel that being a teacher is God’s calling in my life, and I truly enjoy what I do.
What do you enjoy best about facilitating at Bethel?
Molly: I enjoy working with adults who are excited about pursuing their goals to enhance their lives. People who are willing to take on the responsibilities of college, in addition to the daily tasks of their busy lives, are people who are motivated and committed to their goals. I enjoy being a part of their journeys.
What are the biggest challenges?
Molly: Time is probably the biggest challenge. Teaching in a high school during the day, I am able to work with my students every day for several months; however, in an accelerated program like Bethel’s, I have a limited time to form a relationship with the students before they move on to the next course. Class discussion, reading student writing, and communicating through email throughout the week help me to get to know my students better. Having limited time is also a challenge because growing as a writer and reader takes time. Still, I am so impressed by the improvement I see in the students’ work and in their confidence as writers in the short time we have together.
What do you do professionally when you’re not teaching?
To develop myself professionally, I attend and present at workshops and conferences. Recently, I presented at the National Council of Teachers of English Convention in Boston; while there, I was able to visit many sites related to American literature, such as Nathaniel Hawthorne’s birthplace and Henry David Thoreau’s home site at Walden Pond. I enjoy reading professional books about literature and writing instruction, as well as reading for pleasure. One of my favorite events each year is the Southern Festival of Books, held each October in Nashville.
What specific advice would you offer for Bethel students to enable them to really soar in the program?
Molly: Don’t view the program as a path to an end. See it as the beginning of a lifelong journey of learning, self-discovery, and growth. Don’t view assignments as tasks on a checklist; rather, see them as opportunities to challenge yourself, learn about yourself both personally and professionally, and broaden and deepen your knowledge and skills. Take advantage of those opportunities through preparation for and participation in class. Build relationships with your teachers and classmates who will support and encourage you along the way.
How do you feel about winning this prestigious award?
Molly: I am blessed that students thought of me and that they felt I had made a positive impact in their lives.
Congratulations Molly, and thank you for being an amazingly influential part of the Bethel family.