Why I Teach: Sharyn Warren

At age 5, Sharyn Warren knew exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up.

“I would take my dolls, line them up on the sofa, and we would have school. I always knew I wanted to be a teacher,” recalls Warren, assistant professor of business and management at Alverno. “However, it didn’t come right away.”

As a college student in Washington, D.C., Warren was distressed to find that educators’ pay often did not fully express the value of their work. So she plotted a different career path, advancing from administrative work to a director of human relations. With 80 direct reports, the HR director role offered Warren a chance to have a significant impact on individuals’ professional advancement.

“I wasn’t a teacher, but I was still helping people to get where they want to go,” she says.

Moving to the Midwest and having a daughter changed Warren’s career trajectory again. Her HR and training experience allowed her to thrive within the Milwaukee School of Engineering’s (MSOE) information technology department, where she rose to assistant director. A colleague who had observed her natural talent for training and helping students and colleagues then invited Warren to teach; later, she helped develop a program for first-year students.

It was through an MSOE colleague that Warren met Alverno communication professor Jill Moore (now professor emerita), who was working to open a computer lab for students of a Catholic high school in Cameroon. Warren offered to supply laptops; together, the instructors brought students from their respective institutions to the west central African country to set up the lab and train the nuns and students how to use the technology. Impressed by Warren, Moore told her: “We need you at Alverno!”

Warren joined Alverno as an adjunct instructor in 2012, becoming a full-time faculty member in 2016. She hasn’t looked back since.

Why do you teach?

The joy comes when I finish a lesson and a student comes to me and says “I get it now.” I recall calling my mother after a class and I said, “Mom, remember how you used to say that when you do what you love, it’s not a job? I don’t work anymore.”

What is your favorite thing about teaching at Alverno?

For me, Alverno is a place where everyone succeeds. We all have God-given abilities, and we demonstrate them in different ways. It’s phenomenal. I gave an example the other day where I talked about a lesson and the criteria is to sing a song. One student sings it all off-key. The other student sings it with perfect pitch. Do I give them different grades? No, they both met the criteria.

Alverno doesn’t diminish anyone’s ability in comparison to someone else’s. We look at your ability to meet the criteria, and that could be in different ways. I like that.

What have you learned from Alverno students?

That I’ve got to keep working! I’ve got to keep working to build those relationships. I have to keep working to be the best that I can be so that I always have a passion for what I do. When you become complacent, then students see that. To keep working on me to be the best that I can so that I can always be the best for them.

What is the one thing that you want students to leave your classroom with?

“I want them to always leave my class with a thirst to learn more.”

You’re working on your fifth degree – what is it?

I’m in Alverno’s [education doctorate] program. I have earned my a two-year degree in general studies, a bachelor’s degree in business management and communication, a master’s in management and an EdS. I’m finishing my doctorate with a graduation date of May 2022. My dissertation is about student success and development – looking at first-generation students and that pivotal point of their sophomore year.

I am a lifelong learner. I just like to learn. And I love what I do.

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