I believe that everyone has a story. We can enjoy them all if we're willing to listen and just "be" in the moment. There are many times when I shake my head and think to myself "only me". I find shenanigans in the most unlikely places, I'm always being told not to make friends in the grocery, and I am a huge nerd (self proclaimed). I am married, and I have five children. All of my children have four feet and tails (betcha I got you for a second). I have two dogs and three cats.
I am interested in all things crafty, and I spend more time on Pinterest than I'd care to admit. I love making things, and I take great joy in spending hours in the craft studio that is set up in my basement. I also love shoes. I have a Carrie Bradshaw sized obsession, and although I couldn't draw you a house with all the tools in the world, I can sketch outlines of shoes and have several in a book. In my next life, I want to design them. I also love being outside, and when the weather is nice, you can find me on the deck, in my hammock with a book, my notebook, and sun tea. I also obnoxiously take pictures of everything.
I started writing when I was in middle school, and I have not stopped since. I used to write stories about my friends and I would often type them (on a TYPEWRITER!) and give them as gifts. My family didn't own a computer until I was in high school. I continue to write flash fiction and poetry as well as creative non-fiction. I have been to several writers' retreats and I was a summer fellow last year in the Meadowbrook Writing Project.
I detest the poetry of T.S. Eliot, but I owe him for the day I decided to go to graduate school. I felt changed after leaving a modern poetry class one day, and I credit that class with helping to turn the tide for me.
My favorite writers include James Joyce (although I have not finished Ulysses), Sylvia Plath, and I adore Frank McCourt. I also enjoy some more modern fiction, and some of my favorites are Cecelia Ahern and Marissa de los Santos.
I teach writing, and there is not another job in this world that I ever want to do. I am a writer, and that's what makes me whole.
What is your teaching philosophy?
The classroom is an interesting community, in which learning is a two-way street because teachers learn as much from students as students learn from their teachers. The most interesting aspects of the classroom are the sparks that ignite an unexpected discussion bringing up interesting and thought-provoking points for both the students and the instructor. My goals include the fostering of an understanding of the English language, and writing as a process, in a way that students can use that knowledge as a basis for any academic or career endeavor they pursue. Reading, written and verbal communication skills combined with analytic abilities are not only desirable qualities in a good student; they are attractive qualities to employers of all varieties. Teaching is important to me because it is a challenging yet consistently rewarding profession. Challenges facing instructors only help to make them more effective and obstacles are opportunities for learning and continual development. Learning is as much a process as the material being presented and it does not stop upon the completion of a degree. It is important for instructors to be self-reflective, to adapt teaching philosophy and technique based on student reception. As an instructor, student feedback is the most effective and valuable method of measuring success. For many students, transferring an idea from an abstract conception to reality on the page is the most difficult step. I have found that small peer group work is an effective tool for aiding students in the process of taking an idea and creating a thesis statement. They are effective for several reasons, but their primary use is to stimulate discussion about the task at hand. Students are most apt to discuss a task and ask questions in a small group than in front of a large class. Peer groups also help students learn the value of constructive criticism and peer editing which reinforces the skills necessary to place close attention to detail in their own work. Creating an atmosphere of learning through discussion is an important aspect of student understanding. Interactive lecture is the first step to stimulating a thought process. I begin with questions such as: What did you think of the text? Which character(s) did you most identify with? What was the most important message you took away from the text? These are questions that get students to think about the text as it relates to the present. Helping students identify and personally connect with the material they read is a key aspect of their overall understanding of the material. To further assess understanding, I give students reading response essays in which students will be asked to complete the weekly assignment and respond in a two or three-page essay. The essays ask the students to read and closely identify with it both personally and in a larger social context. Students should identify the overall theme of the work, the interrelationships between the texts, and lastly, how they relate to contemporary life. Essays will be evaluated based on criteria such as whether the student answered all questions asked, provided textual support for their responses, or, displayed a relationship to the text.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
I would ask my student for a writing sample for me to evaluate the piece. I would also ask my student what his or her own personal strengths and weaknesses with reading/writing are.