Arts & Sciences

CTL Teaching Spotlight Series: Sarah Stanley on awakening confidence and empathy in her students

This Q&A is part of the “Teaching Spotlight Series.” Hosted through the Center for Teaching and Learning, this interview series pays special attention to teaching as a profession and vocation at Marquette. All kinds of instructors and faculty will be profiled in this series. Graduate student instructors, new faculty, associate professors, adjunct or full-time participating faculty, staff who teach our students or part of a collaborative teaching core on campus: We want to shine a light on great things happening everywhere on campus!

Sarah Stanley
Teaching assistant professor, Department of English
Interdisciplinary Gender and Sexualities Studies Program
Klingler College of Arts & Sciences
Teaching at Marquette since fall 2019

What do you find rewarding about teaching?

The most rewarding aspect of my teaching is observing the emotional and intellectual growth my students undergo and then helping them to step back and recognize it for themselves. I also enjoy the wealth of differing perspectives they bring to our course topics in their writing and our group discussions, and the way my students often challenge my own thinking about these subjects and issues.

What do you find challenging about teaching?

Prioritization is one of my biggest teaching challenges. Regardless of the course, there will always be more potential material than we can cover during one semester, so determining a balance between depth and breadth can be difficult. Especially toward the beginning of the semester, it can also be challenging to intuit where individual students’ strengths and weaknesses lie and the areas in which they most need support.

What led you to teaching as your career or part of it?

I have always loved learning and sharing it with others, and some of the most influential individuals in my life have been educators. I originally planned to teach high school, but my goals changed when I went to community college and saw how much more freedom professors have regarding their curriculum. My own pedagogy continues to be heavily shaped by that of my favorite professors from community college through grad school.

What do you hope students learn from your teaching?

If students learn nothing else in my classes, I want them to walk away with confidence in their own learning capabilities and a recognition of the role empathy has in improving the lived experience of real people, themselves included.

What are your favorite tips for people starting to teach in your field or generally?

Regardless of discipline, my favorite tip for people starting to teach is to be authentic. It’s important to be yourself and to share your experiences and difficulties. Helping students recognize that they are not alone in struggling, both intellectually and in terms of mental health, is more important than ever before. It’s also important to get comfortable admitting you don’t know; it’s okay not to have all the answers.

Non-astonishing teaching tip time! Please share one favorite thing you do in class or with your students that you think everyone should try. Limit yourself to three sentences.

I enjoy showing TikToks during class as a launch point for writing about and discussing the social issues that we are covering. They represent bite size content that comes in a variety of genres, from informatory to creative to propagandistic. Analyzing TikToks helps students practice their media literacy skills, explore public opinion on current issues, and determine strategies for becoming more ethical and empathetic communicators.

Sarah Stanley, enjoying a Friday Fish Fry

If you would like to recommend someone you know (or yourself!) to be profiled in this series, email Please provide a very brief description about the educator and/or why you think they should be highlighted. After consideration, the CTL will contact your nominee to start the interview process, which will entail the educator responding in writing briefly to different interview questions from a menu of choices.