Jodi Peterson: Enriching minds, embracing equity, exemplifying excellence
Jodi Peterson is redefining what it means to be an exceptional teacher. In just over a decade at UTSA, Peterson has become one of the university’s most exemplary instructors, using adaptive and inclusive teaching methods to make a lasting impact on all her students.
Fueled by preserving her grandfather’s legacy as a World War II veteran, Peterson embraced history as her passion and teaching as her life’s work. Since joining the UTSA faculty in 2009, Peterson has strived to exemplify how to bridge the gap between passion for the subject and effective instruction that meets diverse student needs.
“Just as historical figures are not faceless, neither are my students, which is why I work to create a classroom environment that is secure, just and inviting,” says Peterson.
Peterson primarily teaches freshmen in the core curriculum courses U.S. History Pre-Columbus to the Civil War Era and U.S. History Civil War to the Present. She also teaches a Historical Methods introductory course that all history majors and minors must take.
Peterson pioneered online and hybrid teaching modalities for the UTSA Department of History in 2015, a true testament of her desire to foster student learning and genuine resonation with a topic she so passionately stewards. Her online and hybrid classes are held to the same standard as her in-person classes, requiring active student engagement from Blackboard discussions and peer-reviewed writing assignments, as well as offering GroupMe chats for extended discussions outside the virtual classroom.
“[Peterson] has transformed her classes into multi-platform, multi-vocal, and interactive courses that deepen students’ connection to the material and offer them a view of the past that emphasizes nuance, contingency, and complexity – in short, a three-dimensional portrait of American history,” says Gregg L. Michel, associate professor of history.
Not only has Peterson adapted her teaching style to accommodate students, she’s also adjusted the assignments available within each class, taking into consideration students who struggle with conventional assignments. For her online courses, Peterson offers a variety of instructional support to accommodate all learning styles, from scripted and recorded lectures with both visual and audio components, to resources for additional learning available on each carefully crafted module.
Peterson conducts continuous self-analysis of student performance and makes adjustments to her courses to create the optimal student learning experience. As an Online Teaching Faculty Champion, Peterson is also a resource for other teachers in her discipline and consistently offers her expertise and advise to help other UTSA faculty better engage their students.
Despite teaching over 700 students each year and in large class sizes, Peterson takes the time to respond to student inquiries and encourages students to contact her with any questions. Peterson uses Blackboard Collaborate to coordinate online office hours, regardless if the student is online or in-person, to better accommodate student schedules. She also uses Blackboard’s Retention Center to track student scores, missed assignments, and engagement. This allows Peterson to hold all students to a higher standard and quickly see which students are falling behind so she can reach out to them personally.
“Students leave her classroom with a confidence and clarity that many lacked upon entering UTSA,” says Kirsten E. Gardner, associate professor of history. “In my mind, she is the perfect definition of a teacher who works endlessly to promote student success and is driven by a genuine care for all of her students.”
Peterson endeavors to not only effectively teach her subject matter to her students, but also instill vital learning and study habits that students can employ throughout their academic journey, making a lasting, positive impact on their success.
“While it is nice to have a teacher who is engaged and presents material well, it is even more special when you feel changed by a class and a professor. Professor Peterson is passionate about teaching and dedicated to her student’s success. She has a gift to ‘teach and inspire’ and an ability to relate and encourage,” comments Kristy Woolwine, a former student in Peterson’s Pre-Columbus to Civil War History course.
Through her ceaseless dedication to student success, Jodi Peterson continues to shape the lives of her students, exuding the UTSA core values of excellence, inclusiveness, and innovation in all her endeavors. Earlier this year, she was one of 27 educators across The University of Texas System honored with the 2020 Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award, one of the nation’s most competitive awards recognizing extraordinary undergraduate faculty performance and innovation.
Peterson is a Lecturer III and University Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Department of History and a member of the UTSA Academy of Distinguished Teaching Scholars. She earned her B.S. in History from Utah State University, an M.A. in Teaching from the University of the Incarnate Word, and an M.A. in History from UTSA.
— Kelly Holguin