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Classroom Connections: Western Carolina
Courtesy: Southern Conference
Release: 03/28/2019
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Courtesy: Southern Conference
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Western Carolina women's tennis player Savannah Taranto and Professor JB Mathews

About Savannah Taranto:
  • 5-10 senior from Raleigh, N.C.

About  Profesor JB Mathews: 

  • Professor in the Department of Biology
  • Owns a BA in Literature from the Washington University in St. Louis, a BS in Zoology from Auburn and a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Auburn
  • Has been teaching for 9 years, all at Western Carolina

Savannah Taranto and Professor Mathews on WCU's campus

Q&A with Savannah Taranto

  • What do you like most about Professor Mathews's class? Human Anatomy and Physiology 1 and 2 were hands down my two favorite classes that I have ever taken. The material was always so interesting and I have always had a love for the human body and how it works. It was a plus that Professor Mathews taught the course because I have always heard amazing reviews from his previous students.
  •  What makes Professor Mathews a good teacher? Professor Mathews is a fantastic teacher in my book, because he is always so passionate about everything we learn in class. He never just stands up at the front of the classroom lecturing for hours on end. He was always very animated and energized which kept the class interesting. He always made sure that everyone got the material before moving on, regardless of how many times he might have had to repeat something. He truly cares about his students and wants the best for each and every one of us. He whole-heartedly cares about what he does, and he helped fuel my passion for pursuing a career in the medical field. 
  • What is something you’re involved in outside of class and sports that we may not know? Over the summer, when I am not out on the court or in the classroom, I work as a Certified Nursing Assistant in a nursing home. I work and take care of the residents there, and it has been such a rewarding experience for me. It is there that I was able to get a good look at the exciting career I am pursuing while making life-long memories with the residents there.
  • How do you manage academics, athletics and a social life? What is your key to good time management? Managing academics, athletics and a social life is exhausting work, but having good organizational skills, dedication, structure, and time management skills has been key to me making this student-athlete life work. Starting assignments and studying days, or even weeks in advance, let me divide my time up so that I am not waiting until the last minute to complete things. Setting goals that I want to accomplish on a daily basis also allows me to organize my time properly while letting me go to the movies/hang out with my friends.
  • What is your favorite spot on campus? I love the tables outside of our Starbucks and Chick-fil-a. On a nice day, you get to sit in the sun with friends and watch everyone interact and hang out in the grass areas and by the fountain. I think that area is just so beautiful.
  • What are your plans post grad? After graduation, I plan on moving to Philadelphia at the end of May 2019 to attend Physician Assistant Graduate School at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

 Q&A with Professor Mathews:

  • What was it like having Savannah in your class? Delightful! She was the perfect student. Smart, dedicated, inquisitive, and always smiling. In class I ask a lot of questions and Savannah sat in the very front and always knew the answer. It was great. I’d ask a question and let the students chew at it for a bit. When I was ready, and if nobody had come up with the answer, I could look at Savannah and she’d nail it, effectively showing the other students that it was possible. She was so predictably good at it that at times it felt to me as if we were a team in the classroom. I worried about her at first, because she would miss class for tennis, but I quickly learned that she was on top of it. As far I can tell, she brings her A game to everything she does. So many of my student athletes have been real stand-outs in my classes and Savannah was one of the very best. If students had numbers in Anatomy and Physiology, I’d retire hers.
  • What is your favorite sport or hobby? What do you like to do in your free time? I moved to WNC as a whitewater kayaker, but have transitioned almost completely to mountain biking. I’d be reluctant to admit this in front of Savannah, but I’ve played a lot of tennis and racquetball since being at Western. Not well though. Not well at all.
  • What’s your favorite spot on campus? The trail system up behind HHS and NCCAT. Also, anywhere I can find coffee.
  • How often are you able to watch your student-athletes compete? Not often enough, but I try to get to see all of my student athletes on the field at least once or twice. It’s fun to see them all in such a different way.
  • What is your favorite thing about teaching? Connecting with students. I was lucky enough to have had a couple of professors over the years who were willing to take the time to help guide me in one way or another and I love that I get to at least try to be there for some of my students in a similar way. I also have a very clear memory of some of my classes that were important but less than engaging. Maybe even dry and painful. With that in mind, I try to design courses and lectures for my college-age self, to provide the information and context that would have helped me, while hopefully making them a little bit more interesting. Or at least a little less dry and painful.

About Classroom Connections: Classroom Connections is a new, bi-weekly feature that showcases student-athletes away from the playing field and highlights the relationship between student-athlete and professor. 

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