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WATE 2020 Winner: Bo Kelestyn (Chemistry)

Why did you start teaching? What (or who) inspired you?

I started teaching when I was a Doctoral Researcher at WBS. I also studied at the Business School for my Master’s and loved my learning experience so much, I asked my supervisors if I could get involved in teaching. I needed to complete some introductory teaching training and I remember leaving that first session in awe of ADC’s Leti Gramaglia and Jess Humphreys and enrolling on the PGA in Teaching and Learning in HE straight after.

What pearls of wisdom have you been given over the years that have helped you with your teaching?

Learning about the idea of a third space professional from Professor Gwen van der Velden and my WIHEA colleagues gave me a lot of reassurance. I was involved in multiple Education projects, but I did not feel I belonged in academia until then.

I’ve lost count of all the techniques I learnt from my IATL, and more recently, Chemistry colleagues. At the moment, I am particularly inspired by colleagues with drama/theatre education background.

Is there anything you wish someone had told you when you started out?

Starting really young, I felt I needed to prove myself and my credibility too much, instead of focusing on co-creating more authentic learning spaces with the students. I wish someone told me to worry less about what others thought of me.

If you were mentoring a first-time teacher, what advice would you give?

The nerves never really go away. They simply mean you care and want to do your best.

Ask for feedback from peers and students. It is really uncomfortable, but it is the only real way to grow.

Network and look for inspirations in other disciplines. Return the favour by sharing your experiences generously.

What advice/top tips would you give to more experienced teachers?

Please take your academic armour off, at least once in a while. Students will not follow you if they are intimidated by you. Authenticity and vulnerability go a long way. Similarly, support junior colleagues. They really need your mentorship and to hear your stories.

What new technologies are you currently using to enhance your teaching? What are your top tips for using them?

Unpopular opinion, but I love Teams! I use it mostly for community building and to extend classroom discussions. I will be running my first lectureless module in October, delivered entirely via Teams (by design and not Covid-19 related).

My top tip is to set clear expectations of yourself and learners. What is it that you want to do in this space and why? Lead by example. If you expect students to engage, be the first one to post and share, and whatever you do, communicate within one virtual space.

Take your time to play with it before you invite students in. There are so many great tools such as Polly, Vevox, Planner that can be embedded. It will surprise you, just start with no expectations. Adopting that learner mindset will help you design the space with deep empathy for students.

What are the biggest challenges faced by teaching staff? How do you overcome these?

My biggest challenge is finding balance and setting boundaries between work and personal life. I leant this the hard way, through burnout. I love what I do and so I will often do or read something work related on the weekend or whilst on leave. My mental wellbeing directly impacts my students’ experience and so being a good teacher, in my opinion, is closely linked to your wellbeing and happiness.

I am still learning what works, but I recently got into meditation (checkout The Mindful Movement on Youtube). I find that even a few minutes make a huge difference.

If you could write a recipe for the perfect inspiring teacher, what ingredients would you need?

To make a base, mix intellectual curiosity with passion for your subject(s) and empathy for student experience.

Blind bake to find your ‘style’.

Once cooled, top with creativity and storytelling, and then sprinkle with positivity!

Add post-its and coloured pens to taste.

Enjoyed hearing from Bo? See the full list of 2020 winners and commendees and read other interviews.