It’s All about the Students for These Two UNK Professors

Posted: March 7, 2023 12:00:00 AM CST

It’s one thing to say that students matter. It’s another thing to demonstrate that they do. Sarah Borchers, Assistant Professor of Accounting and Theresa Yaw, Lecturer of Economics are two University of Nebraska at Kearney professors who live out this moto. Both take their teaching seriously and work to improve it.

Working to Improve

Borchers has been on both sides of the UNK classroom, as a student earning her BS and MBA and as a professor, which helps her teaching. “I am constantly trying to develop and evolve. See what works and doesn’t work with the students.” She admits, she needs to be willing to try different things and pivot. “It’s similar to industry where you are trying to problem solve and innovate to figure out what works. You ask, what do we truly want the students to learn and then figure out how to get them there.”Sarah in an accounting class

“UNK is great about giving instructors a lot of flexibility and freedom to try new things, try new tools.” Yaw said. “During Covid we had to really adjust to keep student engaged and motivated.” She said that her and Borchers keep coming back to this principle: “The goal is to have students walk away from class remembering as much about that class as possible.”

Learning from Others

To accomplish their goal of improving as teachers, they both attended the Master Teaching Seminars run by Harvey Brightman. They have attended trainings in Atlanta and on their campus.

The goal is to “learn how college students today learn and what types of things you can do that engage today’s students,” Yaw said. While you may be teaching two sections of the same class, Borchers explained, “classes can be completely different. Listening to your students and how they learn is important.”

While students are changing, so is the classroom, which is no longer limited to a physical space. To successfully teach online classes, both agree that pivoting and listening is important.

Borchers sees it as a balance to present things in a way that “meets the students, their needs, and where they are at” while trying to “give them an in-person experience.” She admits that discussions and interactions are a challenge, “but I’ve had classes where we’ve been able to pull from different areas and do a lot of real-life stuff and get from our students the perspectives you wouldn’t see in a face-to-face classroom.”  Sarah in an accounting class

Industry Experience is Key

Besides joining UNK’s College of Business & Technology Department one semester apart, Borchers Fall 2015 and Yaw Spring 2016, they both spent years working in their industries after college, which allows them to bring earned and learned knowledge to their teaching.

Borchers worked for a CPA firm and “did a lot of government audits, which helps as I teach the government classes and audit classes.” Yaw spent 25 years “in manufacturing in both the finance and marketing departments.” 

“I also recruited for my firm,” Borchers said. Knowing the industry and what employers are looking for allows her to help students develop skills the industry is looking for and helps her recommend students to employers who contact her looking for personnel. “Kearney is a great size for being able to network, and a great size for helping students get jobs.” It’s knowing a student well enough to know if a position “would be a good fit or maybe not a good fit.”

Involvement with Students Outside the Classroom

Previous industry training also informs their advising of the UNK student organizations they are involved with.

Yaw is involved with Phi Beta Lambda, the business student organization that is the collegiate branch of Future Business Leaders of America. The highlight every year are state competitions in the spring against other colleges and universities, where winners move to nationals. This past summer, Yaw took 9 students to nationals and the UNK chapter had seven top five finishes and 14 top ten finishes.

Borchers is the advisor for Beta Alpha Psi, the accounting student organization. She sees this as a “good bridge between industries, professionals, and the students.” She wants to get students thinking about possibilities and career paths. Speakers from different industries are brought in, firms toured, and a career fair held. Therese in Economics class

When asked why students should join the student business or accounting organizations, Yaw stressed that membership gives students “a lot of networking experience with other students and business leaders” and offers opportunities to grow and learn as individuals. Borchers says it helps students get jobs, “learn about different paths in accounting, and makes students more rounded as individuals.”

The Best Part about Teaching

What these two teachers like best about teaching is the students. “I like how deeply we get to know them,” Borchers said, often having them in several classes and “watching them grow, not only in their education, but as people. It’s amazing how connected with are with our students.”

Yaw agreed and added that she enjoys getting involved with students, helping them with their struggles, cheering their accomplishments, and celebrating their life stages. “Last week I had a student email me to let me know she got married. Another that she’s pregnant.” 

When she started teaching at UNK, Borchers did not know that these close student connections “could be so rewarding.”

Yaw attended a small school and experienced these meaningful student faculty relationships herself. “That’s what makes teaching at UNK so attractive. Hopefully I can mean something to my students, like some of my professors did to me.”

Yaw and Borchers are working each day to be the kind of teachers that make a positive impact in their students’ lives. 

By: Theresa Boedeker

Category: General, Business and Technology, Marketing, Education

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