Dawn Bartz

This is my fourth year teaching Speech Communications as an adjunct at WCC, and I love every minute of it. I teach 1-2 classes each semester, usually at one of the satellite campuses in Yonkers or Peekskill. My students typically range in age from recent high school graduates to grandparents. They are from diverse backgrounds, and they bring a wide array of life experiences and goals. Many have lived in other countries and speak multiple languages. When I teach in Yonkers, I typically have students who are either graduates or parents of students in the public school district where I work during the day — a fun connection to have.

One of the challenges I face teaching in the evenings or early on a Saturday morning is that many students are tired from their other classes or full-time jobs. To meet this challenge, I try to actively engage them in the lessons, and in a communications class, this is fairly easy. Most are interested in the various processes of communication, how miscommunication occurs, and the influence of culture and other factors on communication.

Another challenge is that public speaking is difficult for most people, so creating an environment in which students get to know each other, feel that they are an important part of the class, and learn how to provide constructive feedback helps to make everyone feel comfortable. At the beginning of each semester, I usually have several students who just do not think they can speak in front of others and who feel they “might have a heart attack” when they have to get up in front of their classmates. As I tell my students each semester, after 30+ years in this profession I have not lost a student, and I do not plan to now. More importantly, by the time they present their first speech, they will know each other better and will feel more comfortable.

I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing the progress students make during the semester in terms of their oratorical ability and their confidence levels. I also enjoy how my diverse groups of students come together during the semester, support each other, and forge friendships.