Editor’s Note: Today, we are launching a new series in which we highlight individuals and groups that are making a tremendous impact in the lives of their students and community.
Dr. Patricia Walker is an award-winning faculty member at Indiana University Northwest in Gary, IN. She has been teaching college communication courses since 2004; she began her career teaching pregnant high school students for 16 years. Using the classroom as a place of exploration and discovery, she always had an interest in integrating communication in student learning—e.g., attending and participating in workshops and volunteering in their communities. She found these methods helped to reinforce the high-school curriculum in a real-world environment, while developing their communication skills. Those years of interaction with young women inspired her to pursue a doctorate degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Illinois at Chicago, with a minor in Gender and Women’s Studies. As an avid conference attendee, she loved collaborating and sharing ideas with other academic professionals and often discovered new ways to incorporate their research into her own blend of pedagogy.
Dr. Walker, like many public speaking educators, finds that students are challenged when they must work together. She believes that the younger generation has a technology-focused mind and need training in how to listen effectively. Public speaking teaches listening, and also teaches students how to develop effective content and how to deliver a speech or message that captures the audience’s attention. In the classroom, she also works to inspire her students to gain confidence by working in groups, developing valuable interpersonal skills, and by engaging in out-of-school projects that promote kindness and compassion for others.
Dr. Walker teaches her students that learning basic public speaking skills are lifelong and are adaptable to all communication situations. She has her students prepare four speeches each semester—two informative speeches, one persuasive, and one impromptu. She evaluates student speeches using rubrics and giving constructive comments. Realizing that taking a public speaking course is often filled with student anxieties, she uses an example from her life experience by explaining how she was able to overcome her speech impediment that lingered from being eight years old until her first year in graduate school. From that telling, many students have found courage to overcome their initial fear of public speaking. Students are also given excellent research skills by one of university’s librarians. She says: “Everything about me communicates this passion when I enter the classroom.” She recommends being honest and personalizing each class to meet the students’ needs—and above all to demonstrate “ethics of caring.”
As a beloved educator who strives every day to make the lives of her students better, Dr. Walker is also a fierce proponent of women's rights, inclusion, and equality issues in the classroom and workplace. By not being afraid to incorporate her own personal difficulties and unique energetic approach to instruction, her students are better prepared to face the world and be great speakers. We salute Dr. Patricia Walker for her advancement to public speaking education.
Know someone doing great things in the public speaking field that we should recognize? Let us know!