Instructor Spotlight: Meet Dr. Jackie Jensen-Vallin

We are inspired by our Hawkes instructors and are eager to showcase their talent and compassion for their students. Recently, Victoria Kelly of the Customer Support Team chatted with Dr. Jackie Jensen-Vallin of Lamar University on her teaching style, thoughts on classroom technology, and a few fun activities she’s been involved in over the summer!

*This interview has been lightly edited for content and clarity.

What led you to a career in teaching?

When I was in high school, I took AP Calculus. I really liked math, but my teacher said I shouldn’t major in it, saying that the only thing you can do with a math degree is teach. (He then proceeded to tell me I wouldn’t be a good teacher since I would take it personally if my student failed.)

I completed my undergraduate program at the University of Connecticut. I tried to avoid being a math major, but I took a math course in my last semester and loved it, so I pursued a degree in math and psychology. Afterwards I wasn’t sure what to do, so I went to grad school where I began student teaching. Getting to witness the light bulb moment occur in students’ minds was super impactful for me. This was all at the University of Oregon. I completed both my masters and PhD at the University of Oregon.  

Some people really enjoy teaching upper-level subjects, but I have always been drawn to teaching first year students. These students really need us to help at those beginning levels and coach them through! I have spent a good bit of time in the lower-level courses. Some of the students move on to STEM majors, while some of them do not, but it’s exciting to meet them in the first-year classes. I feel these students deserve someone who is going to work hard to help them understand these fundamentals.

Can you tell me more about your preferred style in the classroom?

I would say my classroom style is course dependent. Some of my courses are adapted lectures. I let the students ask questions and let them direct the flow of the course. For our first-year courses, I would say this is the case. For courses like precalculus, I use a flipped classroom model. My courses are typically very student-driven.

That’s great! It sounds like your classes are very engaging.

Fingers crossed! We certainly try!

What are some ways you help motivate underperforming students? 

I try to help them find the help they need. Sometimes students are more comfortable sharing a question or need in a one-on-one environment versus in front of the class, so I try to make myself available for questions outside of class.

Hawkes makes it so easy to check in on students’ activity levels and quickly reach out to them when needed. When I use the Search by Criteria tool for my student outreach messaging, it blind copies the students on the same message to help me save time! The students usually reply quickly and thank me for the reminder. I appreciate the ability to give a personal touch to my student communication without the large time commitment to emails.

I’m so glad to hear that you enjoy that particular tool! Can you share a few more of your favorite Hawkes features?

Oh my goodness, it’s all of it! The outreach tools are amazing; the reporting tools give me the information I need efficiently; the course set up process is easy and beautiful. I love the combination of Practice and Certify—it gives them the feel of traditional homework while still holding them accountable for knowing the lesson objectives. My students love the Learn mode and examples, as well as working through Practice with Step-by-Step direction. Students tell me that they jot down the Step-by-Step guidance in Practice to help them better understand the material before going to Certify. I am glad they get to work in a program that helps them receive immediate feedback. I love how Hawkes recognizes when students are close in their answer attempts. It’s a very robust program in that way!

Thank you for sharing! On the note of technology, how would you say that your thoughts surrounding technology in the classroom have evolved over time, especially given the shifts in the past year?

Oh, I was such a purist when I started. I let my students have a calculator in class but did not really encourage it. I would never let them have their phones out in class, either. Nowadays, we have a class group on social media where we share notes with one another! We give online quizzes and tests with additional attempts available in case their computer gives them trouble. As a department, we have really embraced the idea of using whatever tools we can to better enhance the learning experience for the students.

Our faculty appreciates your support staff so much! Our rep, Joanna, has been so helpful. Your team’s assistance during the pandemic has been so supportive, and I don’t know what I would have done without you all. Hawkes was able to help us transition to an online format right away once the pandemic hit.

As we close our time today, I would love to ask you a few fun questions! What are you currently reading? Do you have a summer reading list?

Yes! I am currently doing the PopSugar Summer Reading Challenge. Between this list and suggestions from my stepdaughter, I am reading a lot of newer books I wouldn’t have chosen before, such as sci-fi.

What has been your favorite book so far?

I would say The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle was my favorite last year and The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue this year.

That’s great! Do you have anything you’re currently researching?

Yes, I try to participate in online workshops as much as I can. I have especially been learning more about diversity & inclusion and ways that we can incorporate this into our online learning atmosphere.

What is something that your students may not know about you?

I love to knit! I have tried to crochet, but I don’t enjoy that as much. I knit whenever I am stressed or tired. It’s my way to relax.

You said you all will be back on campus this fall! What is your favorite thing about your campus?

We have a very beautiful quad. I would say it’s the prettiest spot on our campus. There are gorgeous old trees in this area. Our Math Shop looks out onto the quad, so it’s nice for students to have a view of the beautiful trees while getting their math tutoring.

Thank you so much for your time today! It’s been a pleasure getting to meet you and learn more about your journey as an instructor. We appreciate you and all you contribute to your students’ success!

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