Elizabeth P. McCann (PhD)Core Faculty and Director of Environmental Education Concentration
Department of Environmental Studies
Why am I an educator?
I really love what I do.
I love learning, and I view teaching and learning as inextricably linked.
As a teacher, I’m fortunate to work with people, particularly students, who have taken the bold step—intellectual, emotional, financial, professional, personal—to explore their passions through graduate studies. As a community educator, I also have the privilege of crossing paths with a diversity of learners and leaders in our community willing to engage in learning in all sorts of contexts.
Being an educator is sacred work, no matter the context. I am honored to witness students explore their core values and what it means for them to be in the environmental field. I strive to build a sense of community and to create a safe space for students to discover their growing edges because that is where learning happens— at those growing edges , the point where you realize there are new and different ways to explore and experience the world.
I believe what I am doing as educator contributes to facilitating change in people’s lives, both personal and professional. My hope is that students, and I, are inspired to be change agents and leaders in our communities, whether those communities are geographic, academic, familial, professional or otherwise. This hope motivates me to explore new ways to connect and engage with students. I find that Antioch students are eager to participate in this challenging and inspiring work; I am excited about supporting them as they connect their passions with practical applications.
What are key elements of my teaching style?
It is important to demonstrate a passion and a commitment to connect the course content with students’ interests and life experiences. In my teaching, I strive to focus on creating opportunities for two-way conversations and dialogue. In an authentic community, learning is organic between ”teachers” and “students” wherein we all come away from the experience changed in some way or another.
Teaching is both joyful and humbling, and I learn something new every time I teach. What worked one semester may not be the best approach for a different group of learners. Being open to learning and continual improvement of my craft is essential. I challenge myself to actively employ a teaching approach that resonates with different styles of learning and allows us to engage in an authentic ways. I demand of myself what I demand of students. I want to expand students’ understanding, challenge them in new ways, and empower them to be engaged, lifelong learners, community members, and inspired environmental educators.
Equity and justice are core components of an authentic learning environment. I find ways to challenge students to understand and improve their intercultural communication and cultural competency through experiences in and outside of the classroom.
Mine is an interdisciplinary background of natural science, social science, adult and youth education, environmental policy, advocacy, community and stakeholder engagement, among other arenas. As a result, I am comfortable with the gray areas and believe no one disciplinary approach will solve the complex environmental challenges of today. I also view the “environment” as both built and natural environmental contexts. These beliefs are reflected in my teaching, as I challenge students to think for themselves, commit to exploring the messiness of seeking interdisciplinary solutions and envisioning the world as interconnected, holistic systems. The world needs adept, flexible, creative, collaborative, culturally competent educators, leaders, scientists, policy-makers, advocates, and citizens. My hope is that together, students and I build our capacity to serve in these essential and eclectic roles.
I challenge students and myself to be systems thinkers in understanding how our experiences, interests, theoretical perspectives, and work connect to communities beyond the classroom. Such communities may be professional networks, local or geographic communities, families, friends or any number of conceptions of community. Supporting change and service learning beyond the classroom is a significant value of mine. Particularly in collaboration with students and colleagues, I enjoy seeking out community opportunities where we contribute our individual and collective talents and learn from others along the way. Examples of recent community service initiatives and engagement include: Keene Community Garden Connections, Cheshire County Conservation District’s rain garden project, Keene’s Vision 2020 Healthiest Community, and New Hampshire’s Children in Nature Coalition, among others. Through personal community service, my goal is to challenge myself to model the same type of change-agent behavior that I ask of students and to seek solutions to complex environmental and social issues.
I once had a teacher who introduced me to styles of teaching and learning that I had never considered. He had a playfulness and a kindness about him. He was accomplished, yet so very humble. He always found time for students. He offered me a perspective on teaching that I didn’t even know I was looking for at the time. He inspired me to see my own potential as an educator. My hope is that my approach to teaching honors the students I have an opportunity to work with, my colleagues, and my dear former teacher.