New Faculty Class of 2016-2017 SCHEDULE Start Strong! Stay Strong!

New Faculty First Year Experience #9 – April 28 -Brault building, Lounge room 233

 This is a reprinting, but still very good advice.

Innovation Abstracts

Volume XXXII, No. 11 | April 9, 2010

Things I Wish I Learned the First Year

This Will Not Be Your Last Syllabus.
I must admit that the first time I wrote a syllabus, it did not occur to me that I would be creating hundreds more, similar and different, as well as thousands of other documents. You might not believe how many files on my computer hard drive have some version of the name “Biology Research Project” (Fall, Winter, Summer, Spring; Regular, Honors, Interdisciplinary, Hybrid; 1996, 7, 8, 9; ad nauseum), or how many times I have made one small change to an assignment, only to scour 20 other documents that might have the same reference. (On the other hand, you might well believe me!) Well, call me slow, but only after 15 years has it occurred to me to set up a template, for all my course documents, based on one criterion: How can I alter this document in the future with the smallest possible domino effect? (I am still working on this one. Pointers welcome.)

Hunting for a Missing Folder Right Before Class Is the Real “Naked Teacher” Nightmare
Perhaps there is a career in which more paper comes across one’s desk than in teaching, but I do not know about it—textbooks; CD’s; years of grades; PowerPoints, other people’s PowerPoints; all those articles that I use in class; and worst of all, all those articles that I might use someday but have not yet. What is more boring than a filing system? I have wasted so much time scrambling to find those very important, yet missing, papers! A system should include hanging files and manila envelopes, labels, and, most important of all, a rationale—not obvious in the piles that I move from one surface to another so that a student can sit down. This goal is still a work-in-progress as well. Right now I have two bookcases, roughly sorted by course and relevance; eight unmarked file drawers which I intend to identify as “Administrative,” “Classroom,” “Reference,” or “Archives;” and, since I teach health and human sexuality, various portable bins of contraceptive methods, food labels, etc. (Have any other ideas?)

You May Not Be Able to Form Successful Student Presentation Groups, but Your Students Can
Before I even attempted student groups, I talked with other instructors. It was off-putting. Their complaints ranged from students’ not being able to make their groups’ meeting times, to being unprepared, reading notes in a boring manner, and not showing up on the day their presentations were due! So I decided that the groups needed to be formed on the basis of shared availability, I needed to coach the groups in creativity and contingency planning, and students needed to receive points for their contributions inside and outside of class. Since implementing these strategies, I have utilized groups effectively and entertainingly for a variety of assignments in all my classes. Students particularly enjoy the chance to be creative with filmed skits, original songs and poetry, and brochure designs. (Luckily, it did not take me 15 years to learn this one! I wrote about it in “Creating Student Presentation Groups that Work,” Innovation Abstracts, Vol. XXV, No. 6.)

To Know the Late Pass Is to Love the Late Pass
I learned about the Late Pass only a few years ago at a California Great Teachers Conference for distance learning. With it, each student receives the opportunity to turn in one assignment late—no questions asked, no points lost. Had I known about the pass in my first year of teaching, I would have avoided that depressing day after a student asked to turn in something late because her father had just passed away. When I needed to call her about something else, the person who answered the phone said, “She’s not here, but this is her father.” How many times have I set a standard and sworn I would stick to it, only to be swayed by a student’s particularly poignant set of circumstances or felt guilty because I was not swayed by another student whose story was not as compelling? The Late Pass, I am happy to say, has removed all such angst from my teaching life. (Many thanks to whomever for the suggestion.)

Write Pedagogically Sound Objective Test Questions!
I lucked into this one at an in-service seminar I was required to attend that first year. Most of my peers were good-naturedly griping about having to go, so who knew that a jewel was awaiting, nestled in the concurrent sessions? The esteemed instructor used Bloom’s Taxonomy to illustrate how true/false, multiple-choice, and matching items could be constructed to assess a variety of levels of learning, potentially doing away with the dreaded essay question—not that I do not need to include writing assignments for my students (a mandate) and not that I do not want to read about what they have learned. On the contrary, I look forward to reading students’ individualized self-assessments, as opposed to the same canned paragraphs again . . . and again . . . and again.

Afraid of It? OK! So Try It Anyway.
Sometimes I wonder if I might be the only technophobe teaching an online class. Surely other online instructors do not experience sheer terror when a program does not open, a student emails that s/he cannot get into the online test, or—worst of all—an ERROR MESSAGE pops up on the screen. It took me eight years to prepare to teach an online class, and I was not sure it would ever happen. But now it is one of the most rewarding classes I teach. Sure, students giggle, during our few mandatory meetings, if the monitor freezes or I cannot even turn it on, as they can practically count the seconds till my “fight or flight” autonomic nervous system response kicks in. But we get through it. I can always ask students for help, call IT, or even resort to “old school”—blackboard and transparencies! Some other frightening experiences include conducting workshops for my colleagues, presenting at conferences, and attempting new activities with students that I am not sure are going to work properly. I am a shy person, not a natural entertainer. But all turned out to be wonderful learning experiences! And I am quite a bit less shy.

Keep It Real.
That might sound like a corny platitude, but the Baby Boomer generation was right about some things. Why do we have labs if not to give students hands-on experience? Well, my courses in health and human sexuality do not have labs (just try to imagine a lab in human sexuality). But I began searching early on for ways to let my students view and manipulate real items. It is typical for students to handle contraceptive methods and read labels on food packages. But they also get to see my own infertility treatment needle collection, a friend’s pregnancy ultrasound photos, another friend’s open-heart surgery photos, and a Down Syndrome karyotype supplied by my doctor. When we study historical events, there is the Song of Solomon from the Bible; original pioneering documents from Kinsey, Masters, and Johnson; the U.S. government Healthy People 2000 project; and even my own previous incarnation in an army jacket and peace-sign headband. Students appreciate getting a glimpse into our lives. Their favorite part of my online health course is called “Lynda’s testimonials,” which describes life experiences I have had that illustrate our subjects—a bad car accident, my mother’s suicide, a thieving caregiver. Perhaps the most powerful: In a filmed interview, my father-in-law, who was dying of emphysema, continued to smoke while on oxygen. Every semester, some students quit smoking after seeing that one.

None of Us Wants to Bore Our Students or Ourselves!
Maybe it was the prospect of someday earning tenure, but something made me realize that giving the same lecture year in and year out would wear thin. Sure, enhancing the students’ experiences creates interest for me, too. But sometimes I need “big kid” opportunities.

I have been fortunate that Mt. San Antonio College is very generous with instructors when funding permits. I have been able to train in the Langford method of teaching and assessment; participate in two California Great Teachers Conferences (one for distance learning); attend seminars in health and human sexuality; write small grants for various student projects; develop the online course; study student motivation; develop an interdisciplinary course with an anthropologist; become certified to teach distance learning; develop an Honors course; develop assignments for Teacher Preparation students; use our Wildlife Sanctuary; have a free personal trainer at our Exercise Science and Wellness Center; and, the piece de resistance, take a one-year sabbatical to study plants as medicine and the natural history of coyotes in California habitats.
I am so grateful for those opportunities. They have made me a better teacher and a better person.

Lynda S. Hoggan, Professor, Biological Sciences

Fur further information, contact the author at Mt. San Antonio College, 1100 N. Grand Avenue, Walnut, CA 91789. Email Author.

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We are down to the last meeting!

Our guests will be Dr. Mel Schiavelli, Executive Vice President of NOVA and Dr. Ralls, President of NOVA, who will be learning from you what you discovered this year that further developed your best practices in teaching and learning and what you hope to build on within your teaching career.   This is your time to shine.  We will meet in small groups, in an informal setting.

Of course, CETL will be providing snacks plus some other goodies that we hope will assist in your teaching career.   Please register so we can plan accordingly.

The location of the Brault Building is on the corner of Wakefield Chapel Road and Little River Turnpike, Annandale, VA 22003

The directions can be found here:  The Brault building has separate parking in front and to the side of the building.  Entrance is off Wakefield Chapel Drive.


New Faculty First Year Experience #8 – March – Fairfax/Pender ( Online Learning –  ELI Campus) 

March 31, 2017

3922 Pender Drive, Fairfax, VA

Room 121  Conference room is on your right

1:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Register: Please click on the link so we may count food and supplies.

If you have a teaching conflict, please email Robin at                                                                                     


New Faculty First Year Experience #7 – February – Woodbridge Campus

February 24, 2017 , 1:00 – 3:00 pm , WAS 116

Here’re the link for today’s Round Robin presentation from four groups:

Last month we asked you to tell us the topics you would most like to cover in the next 3 workshops. Please email Frances ( or Robin ( so they may incorporate your ideas and needs.  Here is the campus map and the address for your GPS is:

2645 College Drive
Woodbridge, VA 22191

Register: Please click on the link so we may count food and supplies.

If you have a teaching conflict, please email Robin at


New Faculty First Year Experience #6 – January, Medical Education Campus (MEC)

January 27, 2017, 1:00 – 3:00 PM;  Room 258

No need to walk outside, parking is attached to the campus building. Please park on the upper decks as directed. Here is the campus map and the address for your GPS, 6699 Springfield Center Drive, Springfield, VA 22150 – 1913.

Register: Please click on the link so we may count for food and supplies.

If you have a teaching conflict, please email Robin at


New Faculty First Year Experience #5 – December, Manassas Campus

Friday, December 9, 2016, 1:00 – 3:00 pm, ( Parrish Hall)  MP  Room 140  Manassas campus map

Register:  Please click on the link.


 New Faculty First Year Experience #4 – November, Loudoun Campus

Friday, November 18, 2016, 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm , Higher Education Center (HEC  building)                   Room 302 .  Loudoun Campus Map



  • New Faculty First Year Experience #2 – September  

    New Faculty Discuss the Connection Between Teaching and Advising

    New Faculty Discuss the Connection Between Teaching and Advising

    Mathematics Professor Joe Agnich (LO) discusses the connection between advising and teaching with faculty as part of the New Faculty First Year Experience program.

    The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) held the second series of the First Year Experience for New Faculty, a year-long program, on September 30 at the Alexandria Campus. Dr. Annette Haggraywelcomed 22 faculty in attendance and thanked them for their commitment to student success.

    This session focused on the connection between teaching and advising practices. Dr. Keri Bowman, director of academic advising, and Loudoun Mathematics Professor Joe Agnichprovided practical tips and pointers as well as heartfelt and inspirational discussions on the challenges facing students and the role of faculty in advising. Some of the best practices in advising are early and continued engagement with students, modeling the behaviors you want to see in your students and sharing with students your successes and failures.

    “Every time you talk to an advisee (student) is a learning opportunity,” Agnich said. “You make a difference. Your attitude toward your students and the things you do in class and outside of class matter most.


New Faculty First Year Experience August 17, 2016

NOVA welcomed thirty-four new teaching faculty this semester.

NFO 2016-17 classFullSizeRender

The Center for Teaching & Learning (CETL) hosted a New Faculty Orientation seminar on Wed, August 17th with jammed pack sessions geared to help new faculty start strong. Topics included; student services, advising, CARES, disability services, Title IX, educational technology and assessment. College president, Dr. Scott Ralls welcomed the group and highlighted the uniqueness and importance of NOVA and the students we serve.  CETL will be bringing back the year long New Faculty First Year Experience this year.  The faculty cohort will meet on a monthly basis. Fourteen faculty hired last year also attended the day long orientation. For more information, go to

NFO 2016-17 Dr. Ralls


  1. Group picture
  2. Dr. Ralls welcomes new faculty to NOVA photo by Kevin Mattingly