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Building Strong Communication Skills

By Shea Huffman
Valerie De La O

Motivational teachers are the backbone to students’ success—they aid in paving the road for students’ career paths, and showing them the way when times get tough.

All teachers have different styles of teaching - some are more visual teachers, while others prefer lectures. One teacher at Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC) has her own unique spin on teaching.

Valerie De La O, a Communications professor, has her work cut out for her; she teaches interpersonal communication, public speaking, group communication and human communication. Many people have difficulty with these classes, since not everyone is an extroverted person. They may have trouble communicating with others, speaking in front of a crowd, or expressing their emotions in a healthy manner. De La O has dedicated her teaching career to helping students overcome these fears and helping them reach their full potential when it comes to communicating in the world.

She takes a practical approach to teaching, basing it on application rather than strict lectures. From her own experiences in life, she has come to the conclusion that one retains more information from hands-on activities. She calls this her “method to the madness.”

She said she is “constantly changing the mold to fit the students’ needs,” and likes to think outside the box, whether that be watching video clips on a certain subject or building a free-standing teepee out of raw noodles, string and a marshmallow to incorporate teamwork.

De La O explained that she wants to build confidence and self-esteem in her students, so that they feel good about themselves to go out into the world and apply what they learned in her class. Job interviews, board meetings and public speeches are all examples of what she is preparing them for.

According to De La O, the aspect of teaching that she enjoys the most is getting to meet everyone from different backgrounds, races, and even different points of view. She said that teaching is a learning experience, too—while the students learn from her, she in turn learns from them, and appreciates being able to have so many varying outlooks from different people. “It isn’t about the grade,” she stated, “It’s about leaving my class with the satisfaction of knowing you learned something new.”

“She’s very energetic and passionate about her work,” one student in her Human Communications class, 18-year-old Dillion Burch, explained. Burch described how De La O is always lively and upbeat during class, and always tries to get everyone involved in the action.

When asked if he would take another class taught by her, Burch agreed, saying she was an awesome teacher and saying he always enjoys class time when she is teaching. Burch is just one of the many students to praise De La O’s teaching methods and bubbly personality; but the amount of students she has excited about her classes is not surprising. “You can’t lead without followers,” said De La O, “We must all work together to accomplish something amazing.”