An aspiring park ranger to a lead instructional designer, Bethanne Tobey has seen her career transform to a place where she has never been happier.
At the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW), Tobey studied Parks and Recreation Natural Resources Management and led the outdoor adventure program for the City of Wilmington after graduation.
“I was so passionate about the natural world and about the environment, and I just wanted to spread that love into the classroom,” said Tobey. So, she earned her middle school science teaching license and taught for three years before spending another three years as a computer resource teacher.
Also from UNCW, Tobey obtained her master’s degree in instructional technology and became an instructional technologist at Cape Fear Community College where she launched the Center for Teaching Excellence.
After returning back to her hometown of Raleigh in 2013, Tobey joined DELTA in a split position with the Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences. Now Tobey is a full-time DELTA staff member.
How would you describe your position to someone unfamiliar with DELTA and instructional design?
“I work with faculty to design their courses in a variety of ways. They usually come with some sort of instructional challenge and are looking to solve those challenges creatively and pedagogically,” Tobey said. “The project team and I address the challenges and make their dreams a reality.”
Tobey explained that instructional design follows a very systematic process of development, but the process allows for creativity. Identifying possible solutions for instructional challenges allows Tobey to think innovatively.
“As you’re going through the methods and systems of instructional design, it really allows you to explore outside the box while still knowing that it always comes back to learning outcomes and student success,” said Tobey. She added every innovative solution always aligns with what the students need to learn.
What has been your favorite project or DELTA Grant that you’ve worked on?
Shortly after joining DELTA, Tobey became involved in the grant for Fire Ecology. “It was content that I’m familiar with because of my natural resource management background, and it was challenging to create a new graduate-level online course,” said Tobey. In addition, the grant included three instructors with varied backgrounds and areas of expertise.
“My favorite part was getting to see the faculty’s personalities through the different deliverables we did,” Tobey added. The deliverables included virtual reality tours of fire managed forests, an instructional video From Fire Comes Light and an introductory video to the course.
What is your area of expertise and what you enjoy doing the most?
“I enjoy creating something from the ground up. I really like project initiation and planning,” said Tobey. Gathering the facts in the beginning stages of a project and starting something new is Tobey’s favorite.
“I like coming up with creative ways to solve problems and collaborating with team members and learning from them,” said Tobey.
In addition, Tobey noted how lucky she feels to work at DELTA for many reasons and one being the resources provided. “Because we have people and resources, it allows us to really take the time to think through projects and give them the attention they need to be the best that they can be, and that’s probably the best thing,” said Tobey.
What do you like to do outside of work?
“I believe in leading a life of service and giving back, so I have always done volunteer work,” said Tobey. For three years, Tobey has been involved with Helping Horse, the oldest therapeutic riding program in Raleigh. “I knew I wanted to continue to work with children because I was no longer in the classroom,” she added.
Helping Horse provides riding lessons to people of all ages and with special needs. “We focus on connecting, encouraging, opportunities and integrity,” said Tobey. Every Monday night Tobey can be found at Helping Horse, a 100% volunteer-run organization. Tobey is the lead volunteer and is responsible for organizing and making sure volunteers are assigned with riders and other duties.
“I like to keep busy and be outside. I like to garden, swim, run and I have four fur babies — two cats (the girls) and two dogs (the boys),” said Tobey.
What is something about yourself that people may not readily know?
A family full of educators and an obsession with Albert Einstein are two things about Tobey that are unique.
“I come from a long line of educators throughout both sides of my family. My grandmother, an art teacher in East Los Angeles, is a direct descendant of Ezra Cornell who founded Cornell University,” said Tobey. “I think it’s odd that I started out in something completely different, the natural resources field, and I am here in higher education,” she added. A whole lineage of being in education, Tobey’s family also teaches varying subjects, from Pre-K to journalism.
The obsession with Einstein stemmed from a trip to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. in the third grade. Tobey grew up with a poster of Einstein in her bedroom that read, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” “And that’s all I saw; I made that my mantra,” said Tobey.
The Einstein paraphernalia that covers Tobey’s desk is always assumed by others to be because of her background as a science teacher, but it’s really because Tobey has been intrigued by Einstein for many years.
Another fun fact about Tobey is that she started a recycling program at the middle school where she taught. The recycling program included a group of students known as the “Green Team” that teamed up to take recyclables from the school to the recycling center and participated in beach cleanups and field trips.