By Rachel Beck –
In a world where social media reinforces toxic body images, subjects such as dieting, nutrition, and exercise can be intimidating to discuss academically. This can prove especially difficult while conducting an online course, a space where building interpersonal relationships between students and the professor is challenging. But Pam Greenleaf has tackled this challenge throughout her teaching experiences, excelling as an adjunct professor.
Before Greenleaf received her FHSU Master of Science degree in Health and Human Performance, concentrating in exercise science, she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Dietetics at Kansas State University. Outside of teaching, Greenleaf is a registered dietician with experience working for public health and diabetes education, the WIC program and, most recently, a group specializing in disordered eating and healthy relationships with food.
Regarding her Fall 2022 Adjunct Faculty of the Year Award, she says, “I feel like it’s a reflection on my department. I do feel very supported by the Health and Human Performance faculty. I have felt very empowered by them to go to them for ideas or feedback, but also to be creative and take the initiative on changes in the course.” For instance, she learned that teachers should focus only on a few aspects that will significantly impact the class instead of overwhelming themselves with all the possible things that could go wrong. Because of her experiences, she encourages first-time online teachers to ask for help and develop professional relationships within their departments.
Greenleaf initiates a relationship with her students each semester by offering Zoom office hours and being timely in her feedback and responses to students’ work. Also, she frequently allows students the opportunity to give her informal feedback and evaluate the material. Through announcements and questions within assignments, she asks, “Did you find this assignment applicable?” or “What would you change about it for future classes?” Since trying this in her classes, “It has been an effective way to get them engaged, tell me what they really thought, or give them some ownership in the class,” she says.
Greenleaf encourages students to engage in depth with the material. “I do hope that students are able to become critical thinkers, able to critique nutrition messages from the media and our culture,” she says. One of the teaching tools she uses is Packback, an online discussion platform where students will pose a question that is judged and assisted by AI. “Asking questions forces a person to think critically about the content,” Greenleaf says.
While developing academic skills is important, Greenleaf hopes, above all, that students will apply this knowledge to their personal lives. “I have a passion for wanting people to experience less anxiety about food. I do hope that even in some small way, my students will come away with a deeper appreciation of their bodies and the wisdom of their bodies.” Considering the amount of conflicting information on the internet regarding health, Greenleaf advises, “Being able to learn to trust your own body and its wisdom is really valuable.”
Greenleaf enjoys spending time actively outdoors, attending FHSU’s sporting events and concerts, making new friends and learning new skills. Greenleaf and her husband, Justin, have four children: Alexander, Elena, Andrew and Anthony. She describes them as “a consuming interest in her life,” yet a joyful learning process as well.