Deborah Wanamaker, JD

1109O Cathedral of Learning
Office hours: TBA
412-624-5698
412-624-1878

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Biography

“The aim of higher education is not to teach people what to think, but how to think.”  That bit of wisdom has been taped to the inside of my grade book ever since I found it in a fortune cookie many years ago.  It sums up what I believe the role of a college level instructor to be. My teaching style involves a combination of animated lecture and discussion with activities and exercises designed to help explain and clarify difficult concepts and to get all the students actively engaged in the class. I get to know my students by name, thus allowing me to address them personally and involve even the more reserved students in the discussion.  By getting to know my students and being open and friendly with them, I try to create a comfortable, easy going, non-threatening classroom atmosphere conducive to open debate and discussion.

I believe in teaching by example.  I am a skilled orator, and I try to approach my lectures as a way of being an example of effective public speaking.  I believe that every class a student takes should provide opportunities for them to develop their critical thinking and communications skills through both the written and spoken word.  College graduates should be able to effectively do both.  Therefore, I incorporate writing assignments and research papers as well as oral presentations in both my freedom of speech and nonverbal communication classes.  By doing so, I not only provide my students with an opportunity to more fully explore concepts discussed in class and demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of those concepts, but I facilitate an opportunity for them to learn to communicate those ideas and thoughts through both the written and spoken word.  

I believe a successful educator should make sure the students are prepared to succeed.  To this end, I require my public speaking students to meet with me individually prior to each speech to review their outlines and discuss plans for the use of visual aids.  This provides an opportunity to get to know the students as individuals, and it enables them to feel more comfortable and at ease in front of me, and in turn, in front of their classmates.

I also try to foster an expectation of success in my other courses.  I require my freedom of speech students to complete short writing assignments as a way of preparing them for the essay portion of the exams, and I make sure they are familiar with the exam style and format ahead of time.  And my nonverbal communication students complete weekly activities that require them to go out and observe or put into practice the concepts being discussed, thereby stimulating their curiosity and increasing their understanding.

Finally, my classes involve discussion in which I encourage students to offer their opinions and provide opportunities for them to share personal examples as a way of gaining greater understanding of the material and allowing them to become an integral part of the learning process. I welcome their thoughts and opinions, especially if different than my own or others in the class.  After all, my purpose as a college instructor is not just to share my knowledge and expertise, but to provide an environment that encourages my students to question and process what they learn and to teach them how to think.

Courses Taught

  • Public Speaking
  • Freedom of Speech & Press
  • Non-Verbal Communication
  • Interpersonal Communication