Why I teach

Karen Appleby

Associate Professor
Sport Science and Education, College of Education

What inspired you to be a university professor?
I like to think that what I do is the "family business." I am a third generation university professor. My grandfather was a professor and chair of the dentistry department at the University of Iowa. My father was a psychology professor and dean at Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI). Ever since I was little, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. The value and importance of education was paramount in my house. I was inspired by both my grandfather and my father to pursue education in my career.

Why teach in a university setting?
I was originally trained as a high school English teacher. While I enjoyed teaching this subject at the secondary level, I was motivated to teach in a university for three specific reasons. First, I enjoy helping my students develop professionally. I like to each classes that relate specifically to the career paths they have chosen. Current I teach our undergraduate senior capstone class. In this class, we do a number of professional development activities. However, the one that I enjoy the most is our class community project. Each semester the students work as a class to host a community "athletic" event-a 5k race or triathlon that sponsors a charitable organization of the students' choice. This event helps the students hone their professional skills in sport science and physical education and helps them recognize the value of civic engagement. While this is a tough assignment, it is always meaningful both personally and professionally. The students can immediately connect the skills they learn from the assignment to the professional world. Second, I like to co-engage in the research process with my students. Teaching at the graduate level gives me the opportunity to advise thesis students. I thoroughly enjoy teaching students about the research process, guiding them through this process, seeing them successfully defend his or her work and co-presenting or authoring with the students after the work in complete. This gives me a high amount of satisfaction and pride. Finally, I love teaching in the university setting because it encourages me to be a better student. Teaching at any level means you must know and be current on all your material. I find myself poring through my lectures each semester to update them with new research and information. I find this to be especially important at the college level as the students are generally very passionate and informed about their major.

If you weren't a university professor what do you think you would be doing?
I would either be a high school English teacher or a college track and field/cross country coach.

What has teaching taught you about yourself?
Teaching has taught me not to take myself so seriously all of the time. Sometimes you make mistakes or you do not know the answer to a question. In these situations you just have to laugh at yourself and be honest that you do not have all the answers. I find students connect with someone who is professional, organized, accountable, honest and fair, but who can also laugh at herself when it is appropriate.

What is the most difficult aspect of teaching?
Teaching is a difficult trade, period. Teaching is a combination of a number of things including, but not limited to: communication, inspiration, professional mentoring, assessment, self-reflection and social perception. Sprinkle in a bit of theatrics-the ability to give a good lecture is reliant upon a teacher's ability to inspire interest in the subject-and you have some good teaching. However it is rare that all of these things actually happen perfectly. The most difficult aspect of teaching-and this happens to me everyday-is leaving class and thinking, "how can I do that better?," "what would be a better assignment to get students to understand?" Sometimes you have to be flexible enough to stop what you are doing and re- evaluate. So, the most difficult part of teaching is always trying to do things better.

Is there an identifying moment where you knew you had a pronounced positive impact upon a student?
Yes. I had a graduate student who wanted to write a thesis. It took her three years to complete this project. This student just presented the finding of her thesis at a regional conference. While she was presenting, I thought about our journey and realized how life changing writing this thesis was for her. We are currently working on publishing this work. I really feel had I not worked this student she would have neither chosen to write a thesis nor continue with the professional development opportunities that have made a positive impact on her life.

What career/life messages do you try to impart upon your students?
I try to teach my students that professionalism is a must no matter what field you pursue. I want my students to know that how you present yourself through writing and speaking is paramount to success in any field. Also, from a global perspective, I want my students to recognize that engaging with their community is important. Being a good citizen and community member is a professional skill and responsibility that I hope my students learn from me. I do this by weaving civic engagement into class assignments as well as modeling this professional disposition by being an active community member myself.

What do you want students to take from their ISU educational experience?
I want students to leave ISU with not only a top-notch education, but a sense of confidence in their abilities. I hope that by the time they leave our program, they know what they want to do with their lives, have the skills to pursue this field, recognize the importance of community engagement and become productive citizens in the world. I know this seems lofty, but I feel this is our job in higher education.


921 South 8th Avenue
Pocatello, Idaho, 83209