Denise Douglas-Faraci, EdD, is an adjunct graduate education professor and course lead at Kaplan University. Her active research agenda includes technology instruction and curriculum and investigations of effective e-Learning professional development for teachers.
Professor Douglas-Faraci’s teaching career spans nearly 30 years, and she has worked with students of various economic and cultural backgrounds from grades K-12 to higher education.
In September 2009, Professor Douglas-Faraci joined Kaplan University’s department of graduate education. She saw similarities between Kaplan University’s priorities and her own. “At Kaplan University the priorities are students, innovative pathways to higher education, and accessibility to higher education,” she said. “I find there is an alignment between these Kaplan University priorities and my personal education journey as a lifelong learner.”
Professor Douglas-Faraci was in high school when she realized her life’s calling was to become a teacher. However, like many students today, Professor Douglas-Faraci had to balance a full-time job and her studies, so she was a part-time student. It inevitably took her a decade to graduate, but that did not dissuade her.
“I went to school at night while working in business. It wasn’t until about 15 years after high school graduation that I had an opportunity to take some courses in teaching methods and get my certification so I could switch careers,” said Professor Douglas-Faraci.
She believes that if online education programs had been available at that time, she could have earned her degree much sooner. That is one of the many benefits she sees in the advent of online learning.
“The social learning and networking aspects of online learning can be considerable when you look at the location of participants. Geographically, they are dispersed across the world. So the learning experience mirrors what many people will find in their professions today,” she said. “For example, someone could be sitting in the financial district in New York City on a conference call with colleagues in London and the Far East. Virtual collaboration with fellow students helps you prepare for those professional situations.”
Professor Douglas-Faraci also sees the online learning experience as beneficial to teachers seeking professional growth, because as educators they must be aware of cultural diversity in order to communicate effectively.
As an avid self-improver, Professor Douglas-Faraci has some other tips for teachers aiming to advance their careers either through obtaining master’s degrees or earning professional development credits. She recommends observing teachers in the classroom, gaining a deeper understanding of technological tools, understanding how to use data to inform instruction, having a strong class management plan, and participating in workshops.
An important step in becoming a better teacher is observing others in action. Professor Douglas-Faraci suggests seeking teacher education programs that offer experiences beyond student teaching, such as a semester of observation prior to student teaching.
Professor Douglas-Faraci has also found that technology-rich programs help teachers graduate with a strong foothold in technology they can use in their classrooms. She says Kaplan University delivers that through courses where students can vet and select appropriate web-based tools that can be implemented into their curriculum.
“Technology is constantly changing and teachers need support to keep pace with it and with the process of integrating technology into their instructional practices.” said Denise. “If a teacher’s instructional practices are current, and if the professional development is relevant and engaging, teachers will be able to apply new concepts to their teaching and have the professional proficiency to facilitate student academic success.”
Denise has another tip for teachers seeking professional development, which she can attest to firsthand. After being inspired by educational literature, Denise has searched online and found workshops where she could learn directly from the authors. Often times professional development credits can be earned for participating in such workshops.
It’s learning opportunities like these that have helped Denise get to where she is today. She also values the experience she has gained through teaching multiple subjects (art, art history, English as a Second Language, British literature just to name a few), and the broad range of students with whom she has connected. She has worked with impoverished students and students from royalty and taught everywhere from an international private school in New York to an inner-city public school in Phoenix. But when asked about the contrasts between those situations, Denise said she found more similarities than differences.
“One thing I’ve learned through my experience as a teacher is that education has a powerful effect on students’ self confidence and happiness. Past students have shared stories with me about how they have achieved their career goals as a result of their education. Helping people make a difference in their lives is the ultimate goal!”