Many teachers act as the total source of knowledge in a classroom. Teaching is often seen as a profession where the teacher knows all and the students know nothing. Students are just there to listen. Sharon Henry disagrees with this notion and “flips the classroom” on her students when teaching science fiction at Tennessee Tech University, giving students opportunities to express what they know outside of homework and exams.
When Henry was younger, she spent a lot of time watching science fiction TV shows, like Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica, with her dad. In high school, her dream job was teaching, and her love of science fiction influenced what she teaches today.
Henry had teachers in the past who inspired her teaching career, but her biggest reason for pursuing university teaching was she “liked being in the classroom and having discussions with students to help them and myself have new ideas and outlooks.” After receiving two master’s degrees at the University of Akron and one Doctorate at Clemson University, she accepted a job teaching at Tech and has loved her position ever since.
“I like to bring philosophy into science fiction classes. The reason I like to teach science fiction is because it really makes us talk about societal issues of today, but does so in a roundabout way so people don’t get easily offended by controversial topics.”
Henry “flips the classroom” on her students, having them read material before class then giving students the spotlight to share their unique opinions on topics that are discussed. This allows Henry to hear the mindsets of students in her class, then challenge what her students know in interesting ways.
“The proudest moments in my career are going to graduation, seeing my students graduate, and having them come up to me saying how much my classes have inspired them.”
This lets Henry know her unique teaching style is making a difference every time she steps into a classroom.
Her advice for any English majors is “Don’t get stuck in the idea of what you will do with an English degree, because a lot of companies like the fact that you’ve been trained to think, dig deeper, and be critical about problem solving. You can do almost anything with an English major. I just knew I wanted to teach.”