At first I wanted to write movies. When I decided I wanted to write, watching them
wasn't enoughI needed to really understand them. Daily, I spent hours reading about dramatic
theory and the originators of modern dramaIbsen, Flaubert, Bergman. My days were full of
purpose. Then I wrote; a screenwriting professor said my work was better suited to the page, and
he was right. That feeling of purpose drew me to literature. Literature, reading and writing
stories, had the effect on me of any pure artistic pursuitit led me to recognize empathy as the
driving force behind humanity; it made me reflect on myself. It now seems morally imperative
for me to dedicate my life to showing people what stories can do, especially to people who
haven't had much exposure to literature.
Of the many ways I can try to articulate how I feel about story, teaching, and what I want
to make of my life, I think the bestthough possibly somewhat triteinvolves me talking about
my current favorite book and what it means to me.
David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest is a harrowing read; I read it over the course of a
month while I was travelling through Asia the summer after graduating from college. It
comprises many different stories in its tangled bulk, but perhaps the most important storyline is
the redemption of former burglar and opioid-addict, Don Gately. It's a pretty pervasive story-arc
in real life: rock bottom to AA and hard work to a decent life that, despite being a daily battle, is
a life of perspective and moral fortitude. This is a story that's so common we tend to ignore it,
but that's sort of the point of Gately's narrative: there is valuable wisdom evenand
especiallyin the conventional, the aphoristic, the clich.
This part of the story affected me in a big, hard-to-miss way. After watching Gately's
sense of self sink to eye-averting depths only to be redeemed through day-by-day adherence to
hackneyed advice, I was finally able see clichs for the moon rather than the finger pointing at
the moon. Livingwith a smilesome of English's greatest platitudes, I began to make my life
and the lives of a few people around me a little bit brighter, having a more positive disposition,
being actively inclusive, and trying at all times to exercise more empathy.
I'd read nearly the rest of David Foster Wallace's oeuvre as well as a few books of his
compiled talks and interviews before I read Infinite Jest . I knew he had a tendency toward
darknessself-deprecation, cynical-solipsism, fire-and-brimstone judgement. Infinite Jest was
his battle with these darknesses, intimately rendered on the page. That bookpacked so full of
love, empathy, humanityis a triumph over these parasitic forces which we all grapple with,
privately or openly, consciously or in our mind's murk. Whenever I read DFW I identify
strongly with his authorial voice, which I take to mean that we're kindred spirits. I like to think
I've got him beat in the sunny-and-social department, but the composition of our thoughts seems
similar. So Infinite Jest afforded me a roadmap for dealing with my own slips into solipsism,
those problematic periods of self-centeredness when the world seems corrupt and I need to be
reminded that the light of all humanity shines on my face every morning when I wake up.
Not every story I've heard or read has had this type of epiphanic and habit-effacing
effect, but every story since the first time I had a favorite story ( The Sun Also Rises ) has done
something for me. Each has placed my mind in the perspective of another for a bit of empathetic
exercise, spoken to my imagination in a new voice, and filled me with ever more gratitude for
this life full of story.
Gratitudeto all the artists who've populated this world with beautiful stories and to all
the benevolent teachers who've shown me the light to be found in literaturecompels me to
teach and to write, and it is what will inform my pedagogy. I plan to give my most cherished
possessionlove for storythe same way I came to have it: through resonant teaching and
well-directed reading. Stories are like peopleevery story has its own set of eyes for seeing the
world, its own voice for interpreting what it seesand each has its own heart, to feel and love
and to tell the voice it's mistaken sometimes. They expound their agenda, sometimes loudly,
sometimes quietly. But storiesthese things of warm-blood and the sensesoften hide behind
the very words that give them life, especially in the hands of inexperienced readers. My teaching
methodology would attempt to help students better understand storiesintellectually and
emotionallyand in so doing, hopefully, endow them with a love for story that they will find
nourishing and useful in both academics and broader life.
Of course there are curricula at the level at which I would be teaching, and I imagine I
would spend most of my instruction time helping the students develop a basic linguistic faculty,
or an elementary understanding of textsor, in the case of Social Studies, a basic familiarity
with important historical moments. But ifthrough proximity, time, and a variety of
approachesI make a serious reader out of even one student, my debt to all those who have
helped me become the person I am today will be fulfilled.
I firmly believe that this appreciation for storywhich has so altered the course of my
life: igniting a passion; showing me the importance of regular practice of empathy, and constant
work to improve this world and the selfhas a place in Mississippi's critical-needs schools.
Having grown up in the rural south, I know it to be both rich in empathy and in dire need of
more. This, and the knowledge that I have something that can helpwhether that something is
information, a life-affirming passion, or simply a minute to listenis what drives me to join Varsity Tutors.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: College of Charleston - Bachelor in Arts, English
SAT Composite (1600 scale): 1450
SAT Verbal: 760
GRE Verbal Reasoning: 164
College Level American Literature
High School English
High School Level American Literature
High School Writing
Middle School Reading
Middle School Reading Comprehension
Middle School Writing