Teaching Philosophy

Teaching, writing and promoting social equity are among the central passions of my life, and I believe that the best teachers are those who are constantly learning.

I also believe that all knowledge is fundamentally interconnected and that novel insights are often the products of synthesis. For these reasons and more, I draw from interdisciplinary scholarship in pursuit of new understandings regarding the intersections between culture as a group of people and as the modes of their expression. I am particularly interested in the relationships between motion pictures and the historical moments from which they emerge and are consumed, and I believe that the multifaceted nature of my work allows me to connect not only with students and scholars within my field, but also with those whose primary interests and expertise may lie elsewhere. 

Above all else, I consider myself to be a writer, and I was initially drawn to filmmaking because of its potential to reach a broad audience. It seemed like an effective way to communicate big ideas. I went to film school in Chicago, where I learned about the technical and theoretical elements of filmmaking, and then I moved to Los Angeles, where I learned about the business of Hollywood. After working in the motion picture industry for several years, I decided that it was time to broaden my career path. Although I continue to work on various creative projects, including screenwriting and musicianship, I have been teaching ever since... while also earning
 an MA, a PhD and a Fulbright Scholarship

My approach to pedagogy is very similar to my work as a writer, scholar, filmmaker and musician. In my lectures, I am able to convey complex ideas effectively by maintaining a keen awareness of my audience and the diversity of their backgrounds. I recognize that communication is a two-way street and that individuals learn and understand differently, and I adjust my teaching strategies to accommodate this. When designing lesson plans and syllabi, I generally begin with a goal in mind and work backward to find the most effective way to reach the desired outcome. Whenever possible, I also try to make my classes enjoyable for the students, due in part to my belief that this makes them more likely to retain the information. I believe that one of my strengths as both a writer and a teacher is my ability to distill big ideas into relatable terminology. I also feel that the real world experiences from which I draw are among my greatest assets. 

In end-of-the-semester evaluations, my students have consistently described me as “very down to earth and approachable” and someone who “really knows what he is talking about.” Students generally appreciate my firsthand knowledge of life beyond academia, as well as the fact that I tend to incorporate humor into the learning environment. In a typical class, I divide our time among lecture, discussion and group activities. I often have enthusiastic lingerers who want to stay after class or visit during office hours to continue our discussions, and I consider it a mark of my ability to engage my students that I have had numerous class periods where we have unintentionally gone past the allotted time and nobody even noticed. This was a particularly common occurrence in the semester that I taught in a room without a clock.

I love teaching because I believe that it improves the lives of my students, whether by mentoring them in a useful skill or simply teaching them to critically engage with the cultures in which they are immersed -- the knowledge that I give them is theirs to keep. Teaching is one of the many ways through which I seek to have a positive impact on the people with whom I communicate. I firmly believe that the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge is a conduit to a better life and a better world, and so I do whatever I can to facilitate this.


The class blog for a online course of my own design called American Film Comedy can be found here. The site has since had over sixteen thousand page views from all around the world. It contains a comprehensive syllabus and fifteen lectures, plus the blog itself also features numerous articles that my students wrote.

Sample Syllabi

Click here to view a syllabus that I put together for a First-Year College Composition and Rhetoric course, which I also taught for several years... 

...here for a syllabus that I made for a Film History course, where I was the lead instructor in a mass lecture hall...

...and click here for a syllabus that I wrote for an upper-level general education course called Cultural Semiotics. 

Please feel free to use variations on any of these course designs in your own teaching.