Dr. Tracy Ann Sykes
Teaching Philosophy 
Most of the exciting and enjoyable times of my life have revolved around school, in one form or another. To me, education is the single most freeing force in the world. No other factor is quite as powerful in breaking down cultural and social barriers. My own experience of this is a case in point. Having been raised in foster homes for much of my childhood, school for me was an escape. At school, it did not matter who I was or if I had a normal family. My test was graded exactly like everyone else's. School was a haven for imagination and learning when I needed to forget about my home life. This view of the power of a good education has directly shaped my philosophy of teaching in two important ways: (1) I strive always to free the inner curiosity of my students by making the learning process compelling and rewarding; and (2) I believe in the inherent freedom and power an education gives to a person, and through hard work everyone can succeed, an idea that is reflected in my grading policies and my teaching approach. 
My primary teaching goal is to help students obtain the tools for living and learning that will serve them well all their lives. As learning is the process of acquiring knowledge, attitudes and skills through study, instruction and experience, it is vital for a partnership to exist between the teacher and his or her students. It is not enough for an instructor to impart lessons from the textbook, students must want to acquire the knowledge, attitudes and skills. To lead a student to want to acquire these things, a teacher must illustrate the value these sometimes abstract concepts have in the real world. I encourage my students to always question, not merely accept, a fact because it is in a book or lecture. I push them to wonder about the why and how. Perhaps this is due to my own intellectual curiosity in research in particular that pushes me to seek the how and why in the world. I thus hope to instill thoughtfulness and a thirst for knowledge in my students. 
Another way to showcase the value of a course is by bringing the real world into the hypothetical realm that exists in classrooms through the latest news on a subject area and guest speakers who can bring to life the materials and concepts being taught. Merely parroting information for information's sake is neither conducive to learning, nor is it encouraging of student ownership of their learning. I create assignments, projects and exams keeping in mind real world applications of the information that help students gain true mastery of a subject. I try to help my students become critical thinkers, a skill that will help them not only in the classroom, but also in their personal and professional lives. 
Overall, I feel a great responsibility to my students and take their success very seriously. Their success is my success. 
Course History