Dr. Vlahakis tells jokes and does things to get us more involved in class. He also makes himself available to students. I can always walk by at any time and knock on his door and have a chat with him. He truly care about every of his students. He spent extra hours helping us figure out concepts and mechanisms. I would like to have him teach me again in the future and I would recommend taking his course! He's the person who's been helping me get through the semester.
It is a great honor to be featured in this spotlight that supports student mental health. My teaching goals have always started with first making students feel comfortable in their learning environments. I have a unique opportunity to engage with students in different learning environments since I am both a Laboratory Coordinator and a Lecturer. This instills a sense of unity and familiarity which often leads to positive interactions outside of the classroom as well, making the instructor feel easily approachable.
I am very grateful that students do find me approachable for discussions, and gathering around a real chalkboard is certainly my favorite activity. I employ in-class motivators to encourage engagement; these don’t single-out students, but rather offer them opportunities to volunteer their thoughts or draw their own conclusions to problems, sometimes incentivized by including a prize for contributing. Removing the fear of public speaking has an enormous effect on student well-being, it reinforces their confidence, and strengthens their ability to handle future stressors. Using engagement techniques also gives the class a sense of belonging that promotes creativity and fosters a comfortable learning environment, but don’t overdo it! Learn your audience and learn their comfort level. Everyone learns and communicates at different rates, so it is imperative that we all give students the proper conditions (and time) to present their full potential.
The chemical topics I teach are usually considered very challenging and very dry, but with the correct amount of humor they can become the most exciting topics imaginable! I find that it is the humor that leads most to stress reduction - this can certainly stimulate student interest in the subject material. I want everyone to enjoy learning, and that is much more important than any grade given in any course. I am known for antics, over-the-top exam questions, and ridiculous comparisons, for example, I call poor lonely boron the saddest element on the periodic table, compare lithium dialkylcuprates with birds made of brass, and label silicon a ‘sitting duck’, but you will have to take my second-year organic chemistry classes to find out why! Humor doesn’t have to make perfect sense, but laughing and having fun learning clearly makes sense to me, and always leads to better mental health outcomes in students.
It has been another great pleasure teaching chemistry this year, thanks for the honor students! May the paths you follow in life always lead to the desired product, and in high yield.
--- Dr. Jason Vlahakis