Teaching with Heart.

September 3, 2013

“Joan Mills is balanced on one leg, waving her arms in the air and trying to kick her raised foot.” begins an article in a recent issue of Nursing PRN. “In the heart, there are two upper and two lower chambers,” she explains; “think of my arms as the upper chambers and the lower chambers as my legs.” This is her simple, but entertaining and memorable way of communicating the complexity of how the heart works. The article goes on to say that these types of scenes are not unusual for a Joan Mills classroom. “The charismatic instructor at MacEwan University is known for her sense of humour, her engaging lectures and her physical demonstrations of the heart’s rhythms.”

Joan Mills is a nursing instructor in the Faculty of Health and Community Studies — and she is one teacher who is making a mark and creating unique learning experiences with this highly engaged and energetic teaching style.

When you talk about teaching “from the heart” it’s almost exactly how Mills came to teaching — and how her interest in the human heart lead to a career in nursing. “I love anything to do with the heart, and I always have. Even when I was in high school I loved physiology – and the heart especially.” Now, that love of the heart has pumped extraordinary life and storytelling energy into her teaching career… “It’s probably what I’m best known for — acting out different heart rhythms — and it works!” she says. “It combines the visual component with humour, and people remember that. It gets the point across visually in an entertaining way that has impact.”

A passion for teaching seemed to grow naturally out of her substantial experience in the ICU and the cardiovascular ICU in particular. The classroom provides Mills with “a forum in which to share her experience of caring for cardiac patients and to connect with students who have a budding passion for the subject. In Joan Mills’ classroom you won’t get a stereotypically dry university lecture. She is a dynamic and energetic presenter who uses storytelling, humour and participation to make her lessons memorable.”

“The classroom is very energizing,” she explains. “It is the interaction and dynamic within the room” that engages Mills and the students; “when there are 40 people together and questions come up that trigger other questions, or students share their experiences — that’s a lot of fun.” She believes that fun, humour and storytelling can liven up long courses and that, as opposed to distracting students from the lectures, actually slows students to make an emotional connection with the course material. “When content is associated with an emotion, I think the generique cialis content stays better,” Mills explains. “That concept or information or knowledge is memorable because you link the emotion to that information and create a strong connection”.

Mills also believes humour helps her make a connection with students. “I need to make my students feel comfortable with me and to let them know I am approachable,” Mills acknowledges. “They need to know that they are free to ask questions or come up and talk to me after class. I think humour helps them get rid of the barrier of my being faculty. It makes the room more relaxed and engaged and participative, and it makes it more fun.”

MacEwan University is all about great education and unique student experiences that connect, engage and inspire students to do extraordinary things with their lives and their careers. And it’s MacEwan University people who drive those experiences… faculty, staff and partners are at the core of equipping students to succeed. People like Joan Mills.

— with material from Tyler Butler’s report in the Spring 2013 Issue of Nursing PRN