Jennifer DeFeo, PhD

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Teaching Statement and Philosophy

"Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school." – Albert Einstein

I think Albert Einstein said it well in that often times individuals leave a subject, class, or school regardless of the level of education, often wondering what they will remember.  This quote imprints into my teaching philosophy, in that I don’t want my students to leave with a grade they worked hard to achieve, yet the information that has been stored and imprinted in their brain known as education.  Grades mean nothing.  Education means everything.

Why am I a professor?  I had my first calling to teach when I attempted to become the first woman Catholic priest.  I wanted to preach the Word.  I wanted to make a difference.  I wanted to stand up in a church filled with individuals who would hear me speak of the Lord’s word and take that word with them and inspire them to do good in this world.  I wanted people to see that the Lord is within us all and we have the power to make change in this world, in humanity.  I taught catechism for many years, but it wasn’t as fulfilling, because I knew I had a strength within me that could be a powerful force to bring out the good and positive in people.  I was told to become a nun.  I didn’t want to be a nun, I wanted to teach, preach, and move a room.  As you can tell, that didn’t work out for me. What I came to realize is that God did have a plan for me.  It was broader than that.  It spread beyond a church filled with people, to the world filled with people.  I moved into the field of Psychology.

I like to think of my classes as “therapy boot camp”.  Blood, sweat, and tears.  I always begin my classes with teaching the three learning styles; auditory, kinesthetic, and visual.   I explain to my students that everyone has a different dominant learning style, and as a professor I need to make sure that everyone in the class will be catered to, therefore I teach to all three styles.  Auditory- they hear me speak it.  Visual- I write it on the board and/or draw pictures. Kinesthetic- at the end of each class I go around the room and ask each student a question about the material I taught that day. 

Humor.  Humor is an appropriate tool that I use to encode semantic meaning into their long-term memory.  They will remember it.  It’s nice to hear them giggle when they take a quiz, because they remember what I taught them using an analogy, metaphor, or humorous story to remember that. 

Real life experiences.  I teach to the real world. The fact of the matter is that people want results.  They want to jump into the “doing”.  I remember being in medical school thinking and pushing for the minute I could get my hands on a cadaver.  I wanted to be doing the medicine.  I wanted instant results.  It’s like when people go to weight loss clinics and pay all of this money to lose weight.  They want results now.  They want to see those pounds shedding within days because that is what reinforces people.  It motivates people. It makes them stick to what they are doing.  That is exactly what I do.  I motivate them.  I show them the results. The first day of class they are immediately doing role plays.  They are starting with those immediate hands on skills so they can see that they are beginning the process of becoming a therapist.  It is like the movie Karate Kid (1984).  Ralph Macchio wanted and needed results.  He didn’t see that every step of the way, he was learning. I show my students how every minute they are in my class they are learning.  Every minute of my class I am doing, saying, or showing them something that will apply to the real world.  Sometimes I do utilize the Mr. Miyagi approach and give them that “a ha” moment.  It’s a beautiful thing to see. 

Investment.  I am invested in these students.  If they are invested, I am invested.  I recently heard that the word around town is that “Dr. DeFeo is a tough instructor”.  A student then replied to these other students and said, “It’s not that she is hard in the way that you can’t understand, she’s hard in that she wants you to learn and she has expectations”.  I thought that was the greatest compliment I could get, because it is true.  I am invested in the learning experiences and what they get from me.  I want them to go out in the real world and be prepared for what they are going to face.  I want them to be confident in themselves.  I want them to walk away from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology saying that they received the best education they could have ever received. Why? This comes back to my original drive in life, which was to preach.  To send people into this world to do good, to change lives, and to better the lives of people; to help and heal suffering.  God gave me this talent and I am using it to the best of my ability.