Instructor Spotlight: Dr. Sharma Leads with Gratitude, Relevance & A Focus on Her Students 

CATEGORIES: Foundation Courses

Dr. Manisha Sharma’s favorite teaching moments are those when she actually fades into the background, with her students becoming the center of the classroom, overtaken by student learning. “It could be anyone else teaching that content, it shouldn’t matter; what should be paramount is the learning that’s happening and the engagement of students,” says Manisha, who is currently teaching ENGL 302 and ENGL 250.    

Manisha describes her current teaching philosophy as student-centered, focused on creating an environment that engages and prioritizes the needs and interests of her students. This approach pushes the students to the center of the learning process, encouraging them to take ownership of their education and promoting engagement and motivation. 

One way that Manisha does this is by bringing relevance to her course content. She tries to do this by emphasizing to her students that they are developing skill sets, not just doing an assignment to get a grade and then forgetting about it. “I talk about the perspective that this is a skill set you are developing, that you will need, anywhere and everywhere you go, you will utilize it every day in your life so let’s develop that skill set.” She likes to tell her students, “You’re utilizing this time to practice discipline; you are learning that a piece of writing goes through a process; you start with brainstorming and then there are several drafts, so you’re kind of training your mind to go through and take it like a skill.” 

Manisha also believes that creating an environment where her students feel comfortable making mistakes is an important part of the learning process. “The classroom is a training ground, where students must feel free and confident about making mistakes and learning from them to prepare them for the real-world challenges they will face,” she says.  

“I’ve found that just repeating that fact changes their perspective.”

She also tries to find ways to work with the principles of technology and social media in her classroom to narrow the gap between instructor and student. “I think it’s quite fascinating to find what engages my students and take it from there rather than finding ways to keep them away from technology or whatever is new out there.” 

“Honestly speaking, my observation has been that students get more from split-second videos than from longer media. Perhaps, the trick lies in switching mediums and perspectives every 10-15 minutes, such as video followed by discussion, lecture, group work, writing, reading and so on. In contemporary times, technology too is training our minds to repeatedly do something, like watch a reel on social media, which simply repeats the same actions, and we can do the same thing in what we are doing in our teaching.” 

When asked about her most challenging teaching situations, she shared that she thinks of those moments as learning opportunities. “The first time a situation happens where you have failed, it’s disastrous. I can remember tears rolling down my eyes and being a total mess, trembling completely, but as you mature through that process, you kind of start looking at failure differently, because the things that you fail in, in my understanding and experience, are the things that you emerge out of doing the best you have ever done, so make failure an opportunity for learning and bettering yourself.” 

Manisha, who joined the department in the summer of 2021, never wants to stop learning. If she wasn’t teaching Foundations and Advanced Communications courses at ISU right now, she says she might be spending more time practicing yoga, writing, or studying medicine, design, engineering or math. Manisha came from a family of educators who always stressed the importance of education, specifically, education for girls (her grandmother was a school principal).

Finally, she is deeply appreciative of her students. “I hope they understand that I really appreciate their effort in coming to class every meeting class meeting, on time, sitting there for 75 minutes, and not taking out their phones even once. I appreciate the focus and concentration that they bring to the class because most of them are just out of high school, and crisscrossing across campus is not easy, on top of making sure that you are there on time. I hope they know I appreciate them; I don’t think I say that often enough.”