Growing up in Camden, Dr. Neelie Dobbins, assistant professor of education at Southern Arkansas University, always felt she would be a teacher, but she thought she would be teaching college mathematics – as her mom encouraged her to do. Working on her college degree, Dobbins came to realize that teaching was definitely her passion. While teaching high school mathematics, Dobbins realized she could reach more students by training the teachers.
“I realized that my place was in the College of Education where I could have impact on so many more students by helping to teach great teachers,” she said.
Pursuing her master’s degree, Dobbins quickly found a mentor who helped her navigate through and encouraged her to seek her doctorate.
“During my first teaching course I realized immediately that teaching was most definitely for me,” she said. “The teacher in that course is still my mentor and best friend. Because of her, I know that I must continue to learn and implement new techniques to be a great educator.”
Because she obtained her Ph.D online, Dobbins has experienced clear and concise classes, as well as unclear and confusing classes. Because of those experiences, she strives to keep her online classes rigorous and meaningful.
She presents her classes in a week-to-week format. She uses clearly marked tabs for weekly assignments and due dates. A to-do list helps students keep their assignments in order. She also incorporates a specific teaching theory into her classes so students can actually experience the theory while learning how to share it with their own students. She strives for consistency in the online classes.
“Candidates respond in a positive manner and are appreciative of having clear expectations and procedures,” she said. “There is no deviation in the method for teaching.”
Content goes up each week at the same time, she said. Discussions and assignments are consistent and due dates and format are clearly outlined. There are continued opportunities for clear communication in the hopes that students have a feeling of confidence in the process and their abilities.
For Dobbins, whether students are face-to-face in real-time classes or learning via online options, she incorporates the same material into the lesson plans, but adapts the format, depending on the needs and environment of the class.
Relationships are the foundation of her teaching style. Helping students realize their dreams and goals, while knowing she is impacting the lives of more than just those she is teaching motivates Dobbins. There is a satisfaction that comes from knowing her role in the lives of teachers makes a difference for every future student her candidates will teach after they graduate. It’s a mission she takes seriously.
“The best part about teaching is building relationships with candidates – Helping candidates fulfill their dreams… and watching them grow into excellent teachers,” said Dobbins.