Waverly Kallestad has been teaching online and distance education courses at NC State for six years.
“I really enjoy teaching online courses,” Kallestad said. “What I like most is feeling like I am helping to make education accessible to people, from all over the United States.”
As a child, and before her time at NC State, Kallestad was always interested in the sciences. She majored in chemistry at Bowdoin College.
“I loved chemistry, but the one thing I always was striving to incorporate into my studies was the answer to the question ‘so what?’,” Kallestad said. She wanted to understand how things affect people and what to do with that information. Because of this, Kallestad chose a truly applied and interdisciplinary field for graduate school — toxicology.
“I conducted a significant amount of field research as well as laboratory studies and was able to publish my work in various peer-reviewed journals. I still enjoy the questions and problems that arise in the environmental field and try to incorporate these discussions into my courses,” Kallestad said.
Now, Kallestad teaches three courses — EA 502: Environmental Risk Assessment, EA 503: Environmental Exposure Assessment and EA 505: Environmental Assessment Law & Policy — through the College of Natural Resources. She also advises students in the EA 665: Professional Project course.
Kallestad says she enjoys teaching for a variety of reasons, including that she comes from a family of teachers.
“I suspect it is in my blood,” Kallestad said. “I have been lucky to have had excellent education opportunities throughout my life, and I really believe in passing that forward,” she added.
Kallestad started teaching college-level courses in a classroom setting before she started teaching online and distance education courses. At first, she was a little hesitant to teach online, thinking she would miss out on getting to know her students, but that hasn’t been the case. “I have found that you do still get to know your students online, through live sessions, discussion forums and particularly when advising them on their Capstone MS projects,” Kallestad said. “I really enjoy teaching online courses,” she added.
And it’s not just the students who are learning, Kallestad learns from her students as well.
“I think it is easy to take education for granted, but it is such a powerful and important component of a self-aware society; particularly a society with individuals that are able to think critically and prepare for the future,” she said.
So, what advice does Kallestad have for her online students?
“Pay attention to the schedule,” she said. She also points out that there are some misconceptions that online courses are easier. They’re not.
“You really do have to be self-motivated in an online course,” Kallestad said. She also encourages students to take some online courses that incorporate synchronous live sessions to have organic discussions with instructors and fellow classmates.
Although Kallestad is not working on any research at this time, she stays current in the industry by consulting on various projects within the environmental field. That work involves field sampling and analysis of various environmental contaminants in different compartments, including but not limited to, sediment, water and soil to help determine any potential risks to people or the environment.