Catherine Ortega believes that learning is a lifelong process. This statement may not be original but is in line with how she has lived her life. She finds that she invariably uses her resources and experiences to try to learn something. She likes learning but also sharing that learning, whether it be in the clinical setting or the classroom setting.
She is a natural teacher and did not realize it until coming into this environment. She is glad that she waited this late in my life to teach. As a trilingual Latina working internationally in the area of sports medicine and health promotion for more than 15 years, she feels that she has much to say and has insights to share about commonalities between cultures and approaches to learning strategies.
Attaining a doctorate in education has made her a flexible faculty member, able to teach competently along a broad spectrum of courses. She feels that she brings the application of theory and science to the classroom. It is interesting to her that teaching at UT Health San Antonio has made her a better clinician. She has also attained a better understanding of herself as a communicator and a scholar.
Her students "keep her honest" in that they help her identify areas where she can improve while also appreciating areas where she has communicated her knowledge and expertise effectively. Therefore, learning and teaching occur as she believes they should, as reciprocal processes of improvement for both her as the teacher and for her students.
John Dewey stated that "learning is life, not just preparation for life." Her teaching philosophy is grounded in the belief that a student is an individual that must be able to pursue knowledge independent of the teacher. As a result of mentors she has had, she finds that she does not like to feed students information. She prefers to have them participate and take responsibility for their learning. It is not unusual for her to guide students to "un-learn" teacher reliance. This can be uncomfortable, as she challenges herself to do more than just stand in front of a room and lecture. It can be uncomfortable for the students because she likes causing a bit of chaos with their thinking. She believes it is helpful to create that cognitive dissonance that will nudge them to find answers that they will remember. In this way, they learn how to learn--for her this is the essence of attaining an education and the guidance with this is the role of a teacher.