University of Michigan – English 125, College Writing (Lecturer); English 313 – Gender, Autobiography, and the Medical Body (Graduate assistant); English 303 – Rhetoric and the U.S. Civil Rights Movement (Graduate assistant); Sociology/Women’s Studies 270 – Gender and the Law (Graduate assistant)
Purdue University Calumet – English 100, 104, 105, First Year Writing (Lecturer)
Ohio State University – English 110, First Year Writing; English 265, Introductory Creative Nonfiction Writing; English 367, Intermediate Expository Writing; English 465, Intermediate Creative Nonfiction Writing (All independently instructed)
As an English composition, literature, and creative writing instructor, I organize my courses to facilitate a warm, positive, collaborative, and dialogical learning environment. Like any skill, learning to write well requires diligent practice, so I divide most of my classes into three parts: a brief lecture; a writing exercise (sometimes individual, sometimes group-based); and a class discussion about the day’s writing task. In-class writing exercises give students the opportunity to immediately apply the lecture material, thereby reinforcing important analytical writing concepts such as learning the classical rhetorical appeals, identifying logical fallacies, reading and annotating scholarly articles, developing thesis statements, writing effective introductions and conclusions, and participating in the peer review process. I’ve found that when students immediately apply concepts in small groups, they become more engaged in the course and more confident about their critical thinking skills. I’ve also noticed that after small group work, reserved students often gain the confidence to speak up in the larger group, a skill that will serve them well in both academic and professional settings.
Facilitating constructive class discussions of student essays is crucial to my praxis. In order to ensure that class discussions remain focused and productive, I communicate clear standards for writing workshops, emphasizing that students should ground their critiques in respect for their colleagues. I direct students to focus their written and verbal critiques on three elements: what they see as the writer’s intent in the essay, sections of the essay that successfully achieve the intended effect, and parts of the essay that require further revision. In facilitating writing workshops, I emphasize that becoming a writer is not a solitary enterprise; it is an active, engaged, community activity that—when done with respect for each student’s ability—can improve everyone’s reading, writing, and critical thinking skills.
In assessing student writing, I distribute grading rubrics along with each assigned essay. In these rubrics, I have two main goals: to build students’ trust in my transparency as an instructor and to help students understand their strengths and weaknesses. Of course, setting specific standards also helps me to ensure that I am teaching and reinforcing important concepts and skills. Halfway through the semester, I hold individual conferences with every student to discuss their academic performance and to address any questions or concerns they have about the course material. These conferences give me the opportunity to gauge student learning. After I identify the most common concerns and patterns of error, I address those issues in class.
Throughout my teaching career, I’ve had the opportunity to pursue several fascinating and rewarding professional developing projects. As part of my service to the Ohio State First Year Writing Program, I served as an Executive Editor (2007-08) for the online journal Commonplace. This publication, developed as part of Ohio State’s First Year Writing curriculum, aims to develop students’ rhetorical skills—specifically the skills needed to recalibrate their academic research into an op-ed piece aimed at an audience of their peers. Students enrolled in each First Year Writing course anonymously submit their op-eds through an online database; then, panelists of peer reviewers in other sections (3 students per group) review the manuscripts. Peer review panels are tasked with making an editorial decision—”Accept with minor revisions,” “Revise and resubmit,” or “Reject”—and justifying that decision through both individual and group letters to the writer.
I taught the Commonplace curriculum for several semesters, and each time I watched with great pleasure as students became engaged in peer review process. While many conversations began with comments about whether an essay was “good,” students quickly moved to sophisticated—and often quite heated—discussions about why a given essay was publishable, unpublishable, or somewhere in between. Peer reviewers identified lackluster opening strategies, critiqued faulty logic, assessed evidence, and suggested strategies for improvement. No longer a mere exercise confined to the classroom, peer review in this context became meaningful because students had multiple stakes in the process. In addition to providing students with a potential publication opportunity—a résumé-booster, if nothing else–Commonplace created a space for students to collaborate with their peers as colleagues, to hone their analytical skills, and to collectively create a digital publication featuring the op-eds they found most timely, relevant, and compelling.
As an instructor, I always strive to connect writing skills to students’ professional goals. In this capacity, from 2008-09 I worked as a consultant for the Minor in Professional Writing Program, which is housed in the Ohio State Center for the Study and Teaching of Writing (CSTW). For this program, I created a collaborative online learning resource for students seeking internships with local businesses, non-profits, and government agencies. This resource—a Wiki page of student-friendly and partly student-generated profiles of internship sites—enables students to research and evaluate their best match for internship placements. In addition to creating and maintaining the Wiki, I also presented information about the Minor in Professional Writing to more than 150 students each quarter. My work with CSTW gave me the opportunity to help students use their academic training in pursuit of career goals.
My greatest joy as an educator is working with students from diverse backgrounds and writing levels. Through my service in Purdue University Calumet’s Writing Center, I worked with a wide range of undergraduate and graduate students—including international students, ESL students, and first-generation college students—from all majors and ability levels. Students seemed to appreciate my efforts. As one student noted in a discursive evaluation, “The instructor was very effective by using good examples and utilizing one on one time with the students.” This “one on one” time with students is crucial, since my teaching philosophy is grounded in respect for students as partners in the learning process.
Community outreach is central to my teaching philosophy. From 2008-10, I taught writing in the Samuel DuBois Cook Summer Academy, which is run through the Ohio State Office of Minority Affairs’ Young Scholars Program. This program admits academically talented minority and low-income students from the largest urban school districts in Ohio, aiming to enroll students at Ohio State after successful completion of the program. In my courses, I aimed to prepare high school juniors for English 110 by teaching a modified version of the Ohio State First Year Writing curriculum. At Purdue Calumet, I taught in the 2011 Upward Bound Program (which also serves high school students from low-income families). My experiences working with these students were among the most rewarding of my teaching career. I’m strongly committed to developing and administering outreach programs for low-income, minority, and first-generation college students.