Teaching Philosophy (Abridged)

My teaching philosophy initially developed in 2010 when I joined the prestigious Teach For America program and taught high school chemistry and physics in Oakland, California. This mission was grounded in the belief that all students have unlimited potential for success and can tap into that potential when appropriate resources and opportunities are accessible – which is typically not the case in lower socioeconomic communities. I recall entering my first classroom with unbridled enthusiasm. I anticipated smiling faces, moving pencils, fascinating experiments, eager hands raised, and exploding curiosity about the world in which we live. I envisioned a classroom community bustling with positive energy and creative, critical thinking. I knew that this would take a significant amount of work to achieve and that this wouldn’t be achieved on my own… I imagined designing and fine-tuning science curricula at a round table encircled by other educators, with a big pot of coffee right at the centre! It does, as the cliché goes, take a village to raise a child and I was excited to be part of a large movement towards that.

At the onset, my idealistic vision was far from reality. Yet, despite operating in an environment embroiled in gun violence, theft, and high suicide rates, my vision was not obscured. If anything, it became clearer that I needed to amplify the contextualisation of scientific concepts so that students may find immediate, direct application to their complex lives. This required understanding of students’ unique backgrounds and needs, and in the process I strengthened my sense of empathy and the learner-instructor connection. This is, perhaps, what I believe to be the most fundamental ingredient of a powerful educator. The deep connections I’ve created, and in some cases have maintained for well over a decade, have led to increased engagement, sense of belonging, and purpose – an observation consistent with pedagogical studies (Sun, 2023). A core aspect to developing effective relationships (and, generally, being more relatable to students) is being authentic. Early on, I contended with the realisation that I cannot hide while in the spotlight. Although there are many dimensions to who I am, I regularly revisited the question “who was I, as an outsider, to come teach in their community and advise on why they should learn science?” This question can be tailored for different educators and circumstances, naturally, but any effective educator should be clear of who they are and their purpose in the field (Johnson 2017).

I present this reflection on my pedagogical beginnings because it’s at the core of who I am and what I’ve brought with me to the tertiary education field. I am a collaborator, a visionary and an optimist, with my past experiences helping me stay pragmatic. These are necessary for educational innovation and meeting the challenges of modern society – including Gen-AI. Specifically, leveraging multiple modalities with varying levels and types of technology is necessary to reduce/remove barriers to student success as well as optimise workflow. Ultimately, as altruistic as educators often are, we must ensure that the workload is both rewarding and sustainable to best support students and other academics and secure longevity of the program.


Sun, B.; Wang, Y.; Ye, Q.; Pan, Y. Associations of Empathy with Teacher-Student Interactions: A Potential Ternary Model. Brain Science 2023, 13, 767.

Johnson, Z. D.; LaBelle, S. An Examination of Teacher Authenticity in the College Classroom. Communication Education 2017, 66:4, 423-439.


Giel Muller, 2024