By Melanie Ochoa
The Faculty Spotlight is a chance to get to know UConn ECE Faculty Coordinators and highlight the wonderful work they do. This year’s Faculty Spotlight is dedicated to Laurie Wolfley, 2016-2017 award winner of the Thomas E. Recchio Faculty Coordinator Award for Academic Leadership. Laurie is the UConn ECE Faculty Coordinator for American Studies and Maritime Studies.
1. How did you get involved with UConn ECE?
About 10 years ago, Maritime Studies needed help coordinating its ECE program, and folks at Avery Point, where the MAST Program lives, knew that I’m a certified high school teacher who teaches lots of maritime literature and is deeply invested in interdisciplinary work; I guess I just fit a need at the time. I’ve been full-steam ahead since then
2. What is your philosophy of teaching and learning?
I believe that the students I teach need a safe, caring and compassionate environment in which to discover themselves as individuals; they need the freedom to think critically and creatively—to take risks and determine their own values through in-depth inquiry and discussion with others. They also need to be challenged to acknowledge and accept their responsibilities and to respond appropriately to those challenges. My goal is to encourage students to reach their own conclusions, find their own voices, and express those voices with clarity and confidence through a variety of communication mediums.
3. What do you consider to be one of your greatest achievements? Why?
Though perhaps not the greatest achievement of my life, what resonates here and now is my current success at surviving each day as a long-term substitute teacher at Fitch High School. I’m immersed in a several-months-long teaching gig that has me flat out every day, then doing my typical stint at UConn in the evening. I am grateful for the amazing support I’ve gotten from the Fitch faculty and staff—and from my terrific students…but I am dead tired. I’ve always applauded the work ECE teachers do, but this experience has provided me with tremendous appreciation for all the high school teachers I’ve worked with in the ECE Program over the years and for public school teachers in general.
4. What are your hobbies?
I love to cook, hike, kayak, ski, garden, and spend time reading in the back yard among the chickens. (I’ve hardly had a chance to consider these activities since the sub job started.)
5. What was your favorite course you ever took in college?
I think my favorite course was Children’s Literature, which I took with Bud Church at Connecticut College. I am fortunate enough to teach that course occasionally at Avery Point, where I still emulate much of what Bud did in my own class many years ago.
6. What is the best advice an instructor can give to students on their last day of high school and/or college?
Don’t sit around waiting to become the person you hope to be when you grow up. It’s too late; you’re already there. I was astounded to find that I was at 30 and then later at 50 the very same person I had been at 17. Take the reins and do your thing. Forgive all the stupid things you’ve done in the past, accept responsibility for yourself now, and move on.
7. What would you recommend students do to succeed in a UConn ECE class?
Recognize that you are an adult, and act like one: Take responsibility for your learning, push yourself to value learning over receiving high grades, ask questions, and think critically and creatively about your coursework. Look for the joy in learning.
8. If you were a superhero, what would your super power be?
Superheroes are overrated. It’s hard enough simply being me; any more power or responsibility and I might just implode.