About My Teaching

Background   IMGP0044

I was originally certified as a teacher in Ireland, where I taught first grade, and then I taught adolescents with special learning and emotional needs. I earned my Ph.D. in Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University, and I earned a Certificate in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy from Adelphi University. I am licensed by New York State as a psychologist. As a college professor I have held full-time appointments at Bowling Green State University (Ohio) and Hofstra University (New York)  before moving to my current position at Adelphi University in 2000. I have taught during summers on 3 Hawai’ian islands for the University of Hawai’i, and at Unitec, a university of technology in Auckland in Aotearoa/ New Zealand. Currently I teach half of my courses in the Ruth S. Ammon School of Education and the other half in the Gordon F. Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies. I have also taught at Chicago Center for Psychoanalysis.

**For more on the educational use of the puppets that I photographed above please see Tracking the Milky Way and click on the “puppets” tab at the top of the page. The puppet project is part of the therapeutic education mission of Gunawirra with indigenous families in Australia,


My teaching philosophy

In my teaching I strive to be caring, supportive, and student-centered, while at the same time providing intellectually challenging and rigorous courses for my students. All of my classes, irrespective of size or level, are taught seminar style, and involve students in rigorous intellectual work, in reflective writing, in group work, and quite frequently in projects that demand practical applications or research extensions of the ideas under study. My postdoctoral training in psychoanalysis, completed in 2003, has greatly enhanced my teaching capabilities and has allowed me to understand group dynamics and the workings of anxiety in the classroom. In addition, it has allowed me to become more courageous in dealing with complex, anxiety provoking topics. I believe that teaching should be anchored in students’ lives and experiences, but not bounded by the contexts of their lives. My goal is to enable students to go beyond these boundaries to envisage a wider range of possibilities so that they become informed proactive, caring, concerned citizens of our world. I believe that these values are evident both in my current course syllabi and in the pedagogical experiences students have in my classes. In all of my classes students encounter the following, which are illustrated in the syllabi for my courses:

  • Opportunities for autobiographical inquiry into their own emotional and cultural experiences
  • Opportunities to enter the emotional and cultural experiences of persons different from themselves through study of literature, poetry, and films.
  • Opportunities to expand their intellectual understanding through exposure to rigorous and demanding theoretical work
  • Opportunities to learn in discursive environments in which dialogue and discussion are privileged, and students are encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning
  • Multi-modal assessment including credit for
    • active participation and informal writing
    • autobiographical inquiry and writing
    • field projects where applicable
    • responses to literature and films
    • rigorous theoretical term papers
    • opportunity for self-evaluation as part of the grading process

I believe in my students and in their capacity to learn. I am willing to devote as much time as necessary in class and outside of class to assist students in accomplishing their goals. I set my standards as high as I can and I view it as my responsibility to assist students in attaining those standards.

I believe that a fundamental responsibility of a faculty member is to be a working scholar. Our classes should be filled with fresh ideas, provocative thoughts, and classic and cutting edge thinkers and writers. Anything less is a disservice to our students. I read widely and my classes change constantly as result of my desire to test out my understandings by bringing new ideas to students. Please see other sections of this website for information on my current scholarly work.

In each of the two sections following I offer a brief description of my teaching work, followed by links to syllabi, links to related bibliographies that go beyond the syllabus material if available, and links to websites for further information on all movies mentioned in my syllabi.


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