An Energetic Approach to Teaching
by Sarah Small
Energy is Brooke Elliott’s teaching philosophy. Be energetic in the classroom and be energetic in every other aspect, too. It must be working because she was recently included on the Incomplete List of Excellent Teachers.
“The number one thing is bringing that energy into the classroom,” Elliott said. “If I’m excited the students are going to be excited too.”
Before joining the Accounting Department in June of 2003, Elliott received her bachelors and masters degrees in Accountancy from Indiana University and attended the University of Washington for her Ph.D. work in Accountancy.
She teaches Accountancy 517 Financial Statement Analysis, which is popular for many different Master’s students. She said her students typically come from a variety of academic backgrounds; some accountancy, some finance and some business administration. The classroom diversity can be a challenge, but she said it also helps makes the class such a good one.
“A mix of students in the class means they all have different skills to contribute, all know different things and their interests are all different,” Elliott said. “Everyone in the course has a different advantage.”
Due to the variety of skills and training of her students, she employs a “funnel approach” to teaching the class where she starts out very general and gradually becomes more and more specific as the students learn how to analyze the information.
At the beginning of every class, she writes on the board, “Does true equal reported?”, which she said is the overall theme of the course and the most important thing for students to remember as they learn how to analyze financial statements.
Although she makes the class rigorous and challenging, she said it’s fun and the students enjoy it.
“The course is really fun because it’s very relevant and topical,” Elliott said. “I change on the fly what we talk about. Financial reporting is always changing, so the class is always changing.”
She also enjoys the class because it directly relates to her research, which is on behavioral finance in accountancy. She said she looks at how individuals use accounting information to base their financial investment decisions.
“Illinois is very good at it,” Elliott said. “Illinois has a strong group around it.”
Elliott is more than a devoted ILLINOIS professor; she is also a devoted Illini fan. She loves sports, and her, her husband and their three-year-old son have season tickets for football and basketball. She said they have also chosen to follow men’s tennis and women’s softball.
After she submitted her tenure package in the fall, she decided to take up a new activity to distract her while waiting to hear about her pending tenure case. The hobby she chose was to train for a Half Ironman, a physical competition where participants swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles and run 13 miles.
She said it is important for the class to be as personal as possible, and makes the point of opening each semester by telling her new students about herself, her family and her interests.
“I tell them about me and what I like to do outside of the classroom, so they’ll see me as a person and not just a teacher,” Elliott said. “They just need to hear we’re in this together.”