Zerrin Toker: A Sedulous Educator Devoted To Advancing Academic Experience
Zerrin Toker |TED University
Zerrin Toker | Assistant Professor | TED University

Forty-five minutes, that is the approximate amount of time required to change one’s life. That is nearly the exact time a teacher, or an educator spends in a classroom. The power of a teacher lies in disagreeing with his or her student. They disagree when students say “I can’t do it” or “I am not capable of this”, and “I am never going to make it through”. It is teachers who believe that their students are capable of doing great things or being great human beings. Such great teachers introduce students to their true self, bring out their potential and influence or motivate them to be a better version of what they are.

So, how does this happen? It happens when one (teacher or educator) enters into the vocation of education, knowing the true purpose of education, posture and poise themselves to make life-impacting relationships that have the power to change lives.

Adhering to the same, and being forever grateful to teachers who go beyond their call of duty to ensure their students achieve success, we at The Knowledge Review were compelled to bring forth this exclusive edition. The below conversation with Zerrin Toker, Assistant Professor at TED University made us understand how she is striving to bring an impact in the lives of her students.

Evolving as a Global Educational Influencer did not happen in just one day. Many stages in life and events led Ms. Toker to reach the top of the hierarchy. She began the interview saying about how the journey as an educator began.

“I graduated from Middle East Technical University (METU) which is one of the best universities in Turkey. During the undergraduate program at METU, four years of educational training has granted me very important skills related to teaching. In addition to my academic studies, since I am personally inte-rested in and actively involved with mathematics education, I attended seminars, workshops, and other activities regarding this field at the national and international levels and content.”

“Besides, one of my studies which makes me excited is to write a series of books containing the set of mathematics coursebooks, student books, and teacher books for middle schools. This set of books was used in mathematics lessons all over the middle schools in Turkey. In addition to this, I participated in writing 5th grade coursebook and this book also got admission by MoNE and used by many schools all over Turkey, as a coursebook.”

“During my teaching profession, I worked as a Professional Development Team Leader as well. I gave several workshops which contributed to my professional development. During this leadership position, in the context of International Baccalaureate, I have a chance to involve in the integration of global education issues to national education requirements. In addition to this, I participated in several diffe-rent roles in the implementation of the International Baccalaureate approach in school from the aspect of mathematics Being a mentor of preservice mathematics teachers made a great contribution to my

professional development as a teacher educator. I am still in close interaction with teachers in practice and follow the recent trends and issues in the literature.”

A life long learner and subject expert, Ms. Toker’s quest to help students better understand the subject and improve their academic experience was visible through her above statements. To understand her outlook on teaching and education we further asked the below-questions.

According to you, what are different styles or approaches of teaching? Also, describe your teaching philosophy.

During several years I spent in teaching, the adventure that I started by graduating from the university, certain question in my mind always directed my teaching: “What do I want my students to remember about learning of mathematics after 10 years?”. My most important goals in teaching are related to students’ discovery about connections with their previous learning, daily life, and other disciplines; realize how they use what they have learned to improve the quality of their life, and enjoy learning and thinking. To achieve these goals, I use many tools and processes in teaching.

I believe in the importance of planning the teaching by considering the needs, expectations, interests, and readiness of the students. I consider that each student is different and I tried to maximize his poten-tial by offering options to support his learning process. Every student can learn, only in different ways and at different times. I believe that mathematics education has a special role in raising global skills and competencies. In teaching, I do dynamic teaching practices that require students to be involved in many active processes as thinking, decision making, problem-solving, action and production. In addi-tion, by providing formative assessment in various formats at every stage of the teaching process, I provide feedback opportunities for application, planning, and student learning. I care for the student to take an active role not only in the learning process but also in the evaluation process as well.

Kindly share your role and responsibility at TED University. How do you complement the University’s mission of instilling quality education in students?

To catch the globalized world, in the 21st century, people are expected to be skilful and competent. In TED University Education Faculty, our aim is to provide this by teacher training in the discipline and with a variety of experience synthesized by the theoretical content. Having this clear view, we have created a curricular and extracurricular program for our prospective teachers including several aspects such as problem-solving, communication, production, and creativity, analytical thinking, entrepreneur-ship and reflective thinking.

All the issues I mentioned about teaching mathematics can be transferred to the design, implementation, and evaluation of the courses taken by prospective mathematics teachers. The main thing in design, implementation, and evaluation in teaching is to take the student to the center. In the development of prospective teachers, we expect them to see themselves as teachers and learners. While reflecting on their learning processes, at the same time they think about how they apply what

they have learned. I know that prospective teachers need concrete examples regarding actual teaching processes, meaning that have been applied and found effective, especially at the beginning. Thus, our prospective teachers have a change to benefit from our mathematics teaching experience in this sense.

In your view, what is the critical attribute that a teacher must develop?

I believe that being teacher requires continuous professional development. I care about transferring this perspective to prospective teachers as well. It is necessary and valuable to investigate various re-sources, to reflect the information obtained through resources on teaching practices and ensure holistic self-development in the light of reflection processes. Finally, I believe that being a good teacher can be achieved with passion, dedication, by conducting self-inquiries directing their development, and by taking action steps in the light of these inquiries. Throughout my teaching journey I shaped my teach-ing process in line with this belief. Besides, I believe in lifelong learning and try to set an example for my students with my passion for teaching and learning.

What obstacles have you faced in your career as an entrepreneur and trainer?

It is challenging to carry out academic studies and to be full time teacher at the same time. This re-quires balance in your life to achieve success in different fields at the same time. Besides, you need to make efforts to make people open-minded regarding change and development. It may not be easy for everyone to step out of their comfort zone and take new steps to improve their practice. In this context, sometimes it is necessary to distinguish the need for initiatives, development, and change long before cognitive content, to illustrate how this will change practices. Besides, scaffolding and mentoring in this process is essential, however, it is demanding.

What would you tell those who are seeking to become educational professors?

Education is a field that has big problems and affects the quality of life worldwide. Therefore, the passion for learning, working and development is the primary condition for attempts to truly change, transform. Besides, it is important to carry out academic studies by connecting practice and to reflect on the developments, current trends and issues in education worldwide. It is necessary to adapt those issues into your own culture and context. It is important to be a volunteer for being good educator, to investigate, to question, to think reflectively, to develop and to learn continuously. In addition to these, it is essential to be willing to work hard to make instructional designs that go to wicked problems tile solution.

What lies ahead of you in the near future?

As a professional in an education field, I work on a teacher training model to support prospective teachers on extracurricular development and becoming an international teacher. Besides, I am developing a professional the development model for teachers-as-designers. As an academic person,

who has been a teacher for many years, I try to contribute to make literature and practice closer in the field of mathematics education.

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