Teaching Philosophy of Darryl Thornton

I believe that students know when an educator sincerely cares for their education and well-being. I approach education from an ecological perspective that considers the many interconnected identities of each student, including issues of motivation and curiosity that are central to lifelong learners. This understanding began with one of my professors early in my collegiate experience. I deeply appreciated her successful efforts to know me as a whole person. Her commitment to my professional development ignited a spark of motivation that would impact me in countless other areas of my personal and professional life.

Her influence, along with that of my first work supervisor, made an indelible imprint on my development and character.  They inspired me to consider the impact of investing in other individuals, students and employees, through thoughtful mentorship, collaborative growth tools, and encouraging stretching beyond their comfort zones.

Much of what is best in my approach to pedagogy and leadership is a reflection of extant inspiration from people who believed in my potential to always achieve more than I could have imagined. Therefore, it is my privilege and delight to pay it forward to each person on my teams by investing in their education and professional improvement. I am convinced that the foundation of my philosophy of excellent pedagogy is engaged inspiration, since it is what drives creativity and motivates success by a sense of wonder and exploration.

That foundation was reinforced during a study developed by the Target Corporation designed to harness and expand the pre-existing strengths of high level executives. With vision in mind, I try to amplify my students’ understanding of inspiration to include both a steady feeling of enthusiasm and electric energy, born out of our mutual investments and personal recognition of each individual’s innate worth.

Just as in Dynamic Systems Theory or Complexity Theory, my pedagogy is dynamic, fluid and interconnected to changing times, research, academic requirements and social needs. However, at the heart of emergent changes, the brilliance of collaborative and transdisciplinary inspiration remains a constant point of reference.

My desire is to facilitate classroom experiences in which everyone discovers new levels of personal achievement through a positive environment that is expressed first through a sincere smile. I want the students to notice that the contagious, happy energy which they see in me, as their instructor, is not merely a role I play in the class. It is part of the way I live my very life and pursue each new endeavor.  When so many aspects of the students’ lives may feel chaotic and confusing, my consistency in class leads to trust and a renewal in the belief of reliability.

My commitment to their education and encouragement for them to become lifelong learners is reinforced in meta-analytical ways through relevant classroom discussions, captivating lectures, valid assignments and informative exercises. I model what it means to work in collaborative environments to best prepare them for the job market.

Students know when you are considerate toward the fullness of their lives that they are willing to bring to the academic table. It is a delight to connect their personal interests to their professional goals. That often requires immediate, positive and exclusive feedback appropriate to the institution’s standards and the individual’s needs and learning styles.

Finally, I believe that agency and autonomy inspire deeper involvement with course materials. One way of modeling this is to provide students with many opportunities for self-assessment, dialogic reflection and active learning activities. When students perceive that I enjoy what I do and that I cherish their ideas, what I teach becomes more significant. I will never tire of those magical moments when students share those “aha!” moments of personal epiphanies. It is my goal that they leave my course understanding that now it is their turn to take all that inspiration and knowledge and pass it on. This is my contribution to better education and, possibly, to a better world.


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  1. I hate leaving my own comment… but… I text the instructor that inspired me all those years ago and asked her to read my post. Here was her reply, it brought tears to my eyes…
    “I read your teaching philosophy and I think you are right on target for implementing your philosophy, skills, and personal qualities to impact students in a positive manner. You are extremely talented and ambitious. I expect great contributions from you.
    Thanks for the kind comments that you said about me. You will far exceed any influence I might have had upon you. Love you, Lydia”


  2. I enjoyed reading your teaching philosophy. Not only was it well written it showed that you are constantly revising and adding to the experience you want students to have in your classroom. Do you think that it is even more necessary to have a well structured teaching philosophy in disciplines that are more interdisciplinary? I must admit I almost cried reading this, it truly shows your investment in your students education, lives and resources. Your experience as an educator and professional is evident in your philosophy. The opportunity for self assessment and reflection are essential to student success and I was inspired to see the attention you pay to it in your philosophy.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Darryl, I smiled reading your entire teaching philosophy post. Your outgoing personality sparkled through it and your passion and energy are contagious. I was captivated by your term “inspired engagement” and I believe that experiencing this in a classroom is a wonderfully rare event. I would love to know more about the theories you mentioned, since I am not very familiar with either. A quick summary or overview of each theory would really take it to the next level!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi, Darryl,

    The positive energy in your teaching philosophy statement is infectious, inviting and reassuring to students.

    What techniques or tools would you use to affect a student or a class exhibiting characteristics contrary to your positive energy?

    Best regards,



  5. Hi Darryl. What an inspiring post. I love how you tied your experience in with your current passion with your students. I love that you are encouraging your students to be life long learners, and I love that you engage students by connecting their interests to their ultimate goals. I think that your example of getting to know the student as a whole person really helps instructors do that. I’m wondering if you can share your strategy for engaging the students in this manner while modeling professional boundaries for students as they begin their careers outside of school. Really great post and what a joy for you to share it with your former instructor.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Darryl,
    I love all the positive emotion that shines through in your teaching philosophy! I think we can often get caught up in all the cognitive mechanisms we attempt to use to make us more effective teachers to the disregard of the affective strategies that are just as (or even more) important. So seeing a teaching philosophy that discusses emotion so thoroughly, and with such skill, was really refreshing. Including that little detail of always starting with a smile is what really caught my eye. Like others may have mentioned, I would love to see an example or two of what activities or discussions look like in your classroom. I think a short description (or even a link to a page with a longer description) would add just a little more, especially for those who may be more concrete thinkers.
    All the best,


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