It’s a perfectly normal occurrence to hear students belting out songs when you walk past Deidra Strowbridge’s classroom. And while you would expect that from Music Industry and Performance students, it’s not something you expect from a Business Administration class. Deidra, who teaches at the Clarenville campus, has been described as someone who thinks outside the box, especially when it comes to her job.
Employing alternative methods, like getting her students to sing, helps her take something that’s generally dry and turn it into something fun – something her students will have an easier time remembering. Deidra has been a teacher for 14 years – every single one of them spent teaching at CNA’s Clarenville campus. Initially, she intended to pursue a career in the information technology sector, and after graduating from a computer studies program at Cabot College, she worked for a number of companies in that field.
Then in 1998, while she was working in network administration with Health Canada in her hometown of St. John’s, all of that changed. Her employer began transferring many of the positions to Halifax so she applied for a position with CNA. She soon got a call from the Clarenville campus, which changed the course of her career. Deidra says the campus needed someone who was certified in Novell software to teach for a short period. “After seriously considering this I decided to take the position,” she says. “It was only for four months and it would be an interesting path to take. I took the position and I fell in love with teaching.”
Deidra says that, as a kid, teaching was one of the many things she briefly thought about pursuing. “There wasn’t really one thing that I was in love with or wanted to pursue until I did my first computer course in high school. I loved computer programming. It was new and different. It allowed you to be creative in a new environment,” she continues. “As with many, I went to Memorial University first but found it very overwhelming. At that time I had a relative who was on the advisory board for the Computer Studies (MIS) Co-op program at the college. He thought that this program would be an excellent option for what I wanted to do. It was the best choice I ever made.”
She returned to Memorial University where she gained degrees in education and business. However, despite her colleagues’ assertions that she’s an “outside the box thinker”, Deidra still doesn’t feel her teaching techniques are that unusual. “Since I have been teaching, the students’ backgrounds have changed dramatically. Students want to learn but they also want to be entertained, to a degree, in that environment. They are used to being interactive in their home life and with their friends. Over the past few years, I have tried to look at various ways that I could incorporate this into the classroom.”
She certainly accomplishes that. “I don’t set out to think outside the box. I look at the material and think ‘What is the best way to get this information across to the student? How would they benefit the most?’ The style I choose depends on the students and the programs,” she says. “Depending on the group and the type of project I have seen varying degrees of success. I find when I do interactive projects in courses such as Organizational Behaviour, the discussion becomes livelier and students are more at ease in voicing their opinions. It’s a great way for students from other programs to feel more at ease with each other in the classroom.”
Deidra shows enormous dedication in her job but she also volunteers her time. For the past six years, she has been the co-faculty advisor for the Students in Free Enterprise team, now known as Enactus Clarenville. “Deidra’s ability to teach is not limited to the walls of the classroom,” says Paul Tilley, Business Marketing instructor at Clarenville campus and the co-faculty advisor for Enactus. He says working with class groups, working with the Enactus team and guiding students through their college experience are other ways she contributes. “She is a mentor to her students. She expects a lot from them, and she gets it. I am amazed to see how much our students grow in two short years by rising to her challenges.”