Rachel Jameton smiles as she talks about the Center for Teaching & Learning at Lewis-Clark State College. It’s easy to understand why because the CTL has sort of been her baby. She has helped nurture and grow it as it empowers the outstanding faculty at the college.
The CTL was started in 2014 to support the personal and intellectual growth of faculty in the pursuit of teaching excellence, inclusive practices, service, and professional development. Through workshops, discussion groups, book clubs and inquiry, it’s a way for faculty to share their expertise and best practices, to enrich fellow campus faculty members, and ultimately benefit LC State students.
Dr. Jameton, who has taught chemistry at LC State since 2003, has been the only director of the CTL and during her time, it has grown into something really special that benefits the college and students as a whole.
“When the Center started, it had an Advisory Board that provided guidance about how we would engage faculty in enhancing teaching practices and promoting student success,” Jameton said. “We wanted to work with the community and also support the adaption of teaching innovations. There was particular interest in how to make online teaching better, and in the equitable engagement of students, so we started with that foundation.”
The Board and Dr. Jameton, however, realized that LC State was different than most CTL models used elsewhere.
“We are a teaching college, and we have teachers who are truly invested in student success, who understand the power of teaching, who really want to teach, and are here to teach,” Jameton says. “And, unlike other CTLs at research universities where the faculty are more interested in graduate work or research, our faculty are already experts in teaching. We have a CTL where faculty actually already know what they should be doing and are doing it.
“And so, the CTL has focused on becoming more of a place to allow and encourage faculty to talk with each other about what they are doing in their classes, the occasional problems that arise, or problem-solving about a specific classroom, pedagogy, or a new thing to try. It is a place that fosters empowerment, encouragement, support and communication.”
Over its seven years, Jameton estimates the CTL has had approximately three events each week, which is around 100 per academic year.
“That’s a lot of workshops and other events, and I have been to almost all of them,” Jameton says. “Here’s the crazy thing: I have learned something new at every single one of them. Sometimes it’s about how to build better relationships with students and support their success. Sometimes it’s about professional development. Sometimes it’s simply for inspiration. We had a workshop last week where faculty discussed tools for online engagement. I had used these tools before but I never used them the way the faculty were using them. It was like ‘Oh, wait, I could do that.’”
Dr. Jameton says the CTL has evolved to a place where it provides a strong community for faculty to share their ideas and the reasons why, such as their love for teaching, engaging students and helping them achieve, or raising students up and empowering them.
One of the CTL’s student-driven focuses has been on inclusive practices in learning how to meet the needs of all students, no matter their backgrounds or their current situation.
“The question is, how do we get all of our students to succeed and stay to earn their degree,” Jameton said. “And to that end, how do we get them to achieve all of the things that they want to do with their lives. We want them to able to come here and be included in the classroom and know that they belong and that this is a place where they can do well.”
That’s important, Jameton says, because nearly 80 percent of LC State’s student body is composed of first-generation college students and many need guidance in navigating the academic system.
“There are a lot of pieces to think about when faculty teach,” Jameton says. “We need to understand who our students are and that the relationships we build with them and the support we give them is meaningful and real. That’s one of the great delights of being a faculty member – helping students to achieve what they want to achieve.”
This past year, the CTL served an important role when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the college to move all classes online or to remote delivery in March. Some faculty members had never taught online or through remote means, and not only had to quickly adjust, but also had to meet the different needs of the students. Not all students had access to computers or the internet.
“The faculty had all of the foundational ideas already in their back pockets, so the trick was to empower faculty to recognize that they already know how to retain relationships with students,” Jameton says. “It’s still an important question – how do you help faculty build professional relationships with students in a word that is changing so rapidly?”
Jameton praised faculty for coming to the Center for training and sharing ideas after the pandemic hit, and even during last summer when they were off contract. Jameton says the shared ideas were posted to webpages as faculty resources, and more than 40 faculty members contributed.
“I think that is a reflection of why faculty are here,” she says. “They are here to teach and help students; we are all trying to help them to connect.”
Jameton says the Advisory Board’s role has changed through the years and continues to play a vital role. Originally, the Advisory Board gave feedback and offered ideas, but Jameton says it didn’t take long to realize that several faculty and staff were already doing pieces of the work of the CTL. So those faculty and staff members took on particular roles, such as working with first generation students or organizing new faculty orientation. Jameton says that has allowed the CTL to expand to do much more than most with a part-time director (she is also a half-time chemistry professor).
“We do so much more here than many other CTLs do because of the Working Board and the willingness of faculty and staff to take on leadership roles, even without compensation,” Jameton says. “I teach half of the time, which is wonderful for me because I get to try out all these things I learn about. And I think it’s important for the CTL Director to continue to teach at least a little bit, just so they can stay connected the classroom.”
Jameton is stepping down as the Director to return to full-time teaching in chemistry next fall. Her replacement will be named sometime later this spring.
“It’s very much congratulations,” Jameton says of the change. “I am excited to be getting back and focusing a little more on the science pipeline part of student success rather than the broader picture. Seven years is about right.”
Jameton says one of the most rewarding parts of the job has been her own personal growth. She thanks LC State Provost Lori Stinson for being a great mentor and boss, which has allowed both her and the CTL to flourish in various way. “I truly believe this is the best position on campus. There is so much creativity that is embedded in it,” Jameton says. “You really get to see and be inspired by the best of faculty, and help enhance their already high-quality work.”