Developing an Active Learning Teaching Style with Alumna Phoebe Meixner
Introducing Phoebe Meixner, a Minerva graduate from the Class of 2020.
When Phoebe Meixner started at Minerva, she entered into a new world of active learning. Inspired by her interactive seminar-style classes and the innovative pedagogy underlying her four-year learning journey, Phoebe began to think about a career in education. Her initial curiosity continued to grow and Phoebe realized that she wanted to be able to provide her future students with a quality education that would be able to prepare them to be ready for any given situation. Drawing from her own student perspective, Phoebe thought about how she could become a more effective teacher.
“Every day is a new challenge for a teacher, and we can come at this challenge from a variety of different perspectives.”
After graduating from Minerva, Phoebe moved to South Dakota in the US where she teaches fourth-grade students on the Pine Ridge Reservation. As an instructor, Phoebe utilizes various educational philosophies to be able to better address the difficulties that come with being an educator. For example, drawing on Culturally Relevant Pedagogy, Phoebe tries to bring in the community’s Lakota culture into the curriculum and classroom. Beyond improving learning, centering on Lakota values and knowledge empowers the students to know that true or valuable knowledge is not only what is listed in the textbook. For Phoebe, this mindset is important to impart on her students as many narratives, particularly from marginalized communities, are intentionally left out of traditional lesson plans.
Phoebe shares that her teaching style, which she now uses with her fourth-grade students, began to take form during her Capstone Project, Minerva’s version of a senior year thesis. For her Capstone, Phoebe designed and implemented a course on historical thinking for Breakthrough Collaborative Birmingham, an academic summer program in Alabama designed to close the opportunity gap for underserved middle school students. The course created a learning environment that encouraged campers to think critically about the historical narratives they were a part of and helped them develop a framework to be able to apply historiographical thinking in their future endeavors. Using an active learning pedagogy, students’ were able to self-direct their learning by choosing the subject they were personally interested in.
“Teaching is this unforgettable challenge,” Phoebe shares. “My Capstone pushed me to grow while also allowing me the creativity to design my own learning and research.”
Throughout her research, Phoebe’s Capstone advisor encouraged her to explore alternative pedagogies. Through trial and error, Phoebe believes this experimentation allowed her to understand what it means to be a teacher. After creating her own learning outcomes, Phoebe was able to iterate and improve her abilities as a curriculum designer and develop a consistent and quality teaching style. She also credits working on her Capstone for teaching her how to be a self-starter — a valuable skill she continues to use every day as being able to research and figure out creative ways to solve problems is a constant part of her role as an educator.
In the future, Phoebe plans to continue to integrate her knowledge of active learning and historiography into her classroom in hopes of inspiring and helping the next generation of students to learn and understand cultures different and similar to their own. As she was able to explore the world’s diverse perspectives during her university experience, she hopes to cultivate pride and excitement in the next generation of students.