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Faculty & Staff

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Holly Bird

Email: hbird@bgsu.edu

Our minds—the most powerful tool we have—can create so many false realities about our abilities, our ideas, and our worth. As a composition instructor, I see these false realities in the minds of many learners as they approach a writing task. Therefore, I believe my job as a teacher is to “move pieces:” to move learners to a place where they unlock, rearrange, or even discard ideas in their minds about their writing capabilities. Particularly, I work to move the “not” out of “I cannot” and turn it into “I can.”

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Dr. Kitty S. C. Burroughs

Email: sburrou@bgsu.edu

As a Developmental Writing Specialist and having been a writing instructor since 1990, I am keenly aware of the value of literacy. Reading and writing makes it possible for students to move toward a more progressive future. Augmented with critical thinking, students could develop the skills and the responsibilities to become active participants in this global community.

I wish my students to have the ability to understand the information available to them, to constructively analyze the ideas in order to make informed decisions, and to convey and share the information with their community through clear writing. And as a way to enhance my students’ literacy and critical thinking skills, I strive to provide a challenging environment for learning in a student-centered and collaborative learning classroom.

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Dr. Susan Carlton

Email: susanrc@.bgsu.edu

I hope to help students to become good rewriters rather than good writers. Fill those wastebaskets and virtual recycling bins! Tinker with those words till you feel that they (their, they’re, there???) are right. “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” So said Mark Twain (whom we remember fondly by the name he penned for himself rather than his given name). What is true for words is also true for commas. The same deadly lightning bolt applies to seemingly harmless punctuation marks as proved by this popular example:

  • A woman, without her man, is nothing.
  • A woman: without her, man is nothing.

Susan Carlton has a B.A. in English from BGSU, and a Masters Degree and Ph.D., also in English, from the University of Michigan.  Before joining the GSW Full-Time teaching staff in 2000 she was a lecturer at the University of Michigan where she taught writing for many years.

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Dr. Susan Cruea

Email: susancruea@yahoo.com

Each student in my classroom is an individual, and as difficult as it is at times, I try my best to give each student the attention that addresses his or her individual needs. I attempt to get to know each student personally, including his or her strengths and weaknesses, and the students in my classes get to know each other quite well, sometimes forming friendships that last beyond the class. These personal connections facilitate discussion concerning the different topics that students are writing about. Thoughtful discussions give students the opportunity to learn critical thinking skills as well as reevaluate their own positions based on the insights of others. This interaction helps students to view the world in broader ways as they participate in academic discussion.

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Sherri Doust

Email: sherriw@bgsu.edu

I strive to be thorough, yet practical and realistic, in both my verbal and supplementary instruction. I also maintain an informal, open classroom atmosphere that puts people at ease. Students find – and course evaluations reveal this – I’m very approachable, friendly, and willing to help people in class, during office hours, or via email (which I check and respond to several times a day). I work especially well one-on-one with students and let them know that their questions and concerns are always welcome, should not be withheld, and will be addressed in a friendly manner. I do my best to accommodate everyone, but I also trust students to come to me with their concerns so that I can better help them.

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Brad Felver

Email: bfelver@bgsu.edu

As a teacher of writing I believe I have an obligation to each individual student. I often find that a fifteen minute conference with one student proves more fruitful that a week of standard, full-class lessons. Each student has a unique perspective and unique struggles, and we must find a way to engage with these on an individual basis. Conferences are time-consuming and often frustrating. I get it. But they also work. A teacher of writing simply must find a way to make such individualized instruction a priority.

I find Malcolm Gladwell’s notion--that it takes 10,000 hours of something to become proficient--applicable to the writing classroom. While the 10,000 part can feel bleak and perhaps extreme, the sentiment remains strong. Learning how to write well takes lots of time. We write several drafts. We start the same sentence five different ways. We agonize over word choice. But the more we do this, the more we establish our own unique and effective processes. I often tell my students that I write my own fiction for three hours each morning, even when I’m in a crummy mood or have an otherwise full plate. Worse, I find that for every ten pages I write, I only unearth about one page of critical mass worth saving. It’s an awful ratio, but it’s the act of doing—the act of repetition—that creates the strong writing. Helping students discover their own processes is my job.

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Bryan Gattozzi

Email: bryang@bgsu.edu

An instructor is responsible for more than just teaching a student how to follow MLA documentation style.  Students are motivated to attend college for personal growth and to increase earning potential.  My responsibility is to prepare them for the job market.  Most jobs require employees to articulate a message, to use technology, and to take responsibility for completing tasks in a given time frame.  Therefore, my approach to teaching is based in motivating students to embrace personality, capacity, and efficiency.  

The nature of composition classes forces students to ask themselves: Who am I?  College students are challenged by having to write with certainty about issues they’re likely uncertain or indifferent about.  My position involves leading students to trust their personalities and writing skills.  This cannot happen unless I am an engaging and personable authority.  It’s important for students to know I travel often, love baseball, and can describe why using first-person may dilute a writer’s argument.  It’s equally important for students to make connections between their personal lives and our reading assignments.  The self assurance gained in classroom conversation or online discussion is positively related to how receptive students are and how much they enjoy working at difficult tasks, which is imperative in any workplace.        

Beyond writing clear assignments and addressing student questions, I guide students to use Canvas course assistant software efficiently.  All course materials can be accessed through Canvas, allowing students to work independently and within an online learning community.  This requirement allows students to work at 6:30 AM or 11:00 PM, view their graded assignments at any time, and show prospective employers they can adapt to new technology with minimal training.

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Dr. Cheryl Hoy

Email: choy@bgsu.edu

My teaching philosophy integrates current technology into the writing process and combines the elements of audience awareness, process pedagogy, collaborative discussions, and persuasion techniques. My course objectives, syllabi, and assignment sheets all focus on the student gradually taking responsibility for learning in an academic environment.

As a writing instructor, one of my objectives is to guide students toward writing papers to their specific audience while still clearly and effectively communicating their position. Another important objective is to teach students to critically read, evaluate, and revise their own writing, and thus become independent academic writers and more effective written communicators in society. Also critical to effective independent and academic writing is credibility. Students learn about credibility issues throughout the semester with discussions of plagiarism, source selection, integration, and documentation.  

In addition, another of my instructional strategies is to intelligently integrate technology to aid students in appreciating and improving their writing and writing process. At the end of each semester, I review the effectiveness of my teaching approach. I review the challenges the students faced in their writing or with the technology and I make changes to or develop new syllabi, assignments, handouts, and activities that effectively meet the needs of the students while still fulfilling the course objectives. 

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Dawn Hubbell-Staeble

Email: dhubbel@bgsu.edu

In the more than 20 years I have been teaching at the college level, I have come to the firm belief that learning is a journey, not a destination.  Just like any journey, there are exciting times (visiting the Grand Canyon) and less exciting times (driving across Kansas without air conditioning in August).  There are times when you arrive at your hotel and the room is ready and waiting and other times when you sit on the side of the road, waiting for a tow truck.  Regardless, with a good tour guide (me), great company (classmates), and a positive attitude, we will all get closer and closer to our destination each day. 

I believe that everyone can become a good writer. I also know-- from many years of experience-- that sometimes it takes some people longer than others to become good writers.   Therefore, my goal is to start at the very beginning of each course, helping students to strive to become competent writers…by providing skills from the very beginning that will facilitate success in writing for other classes they are currently enrolled in.

Winner of Arts and Sciences 2003-2004 Distinguished Instructor/Lecturer Award 

In the more than 20 years I have been teaching at the college level, I have come to the firm belief that learning is a journey, not a destination.  Just like any journey, there are exciting times (visiting the Grand Canyon) and less exciting times (driving across Kansas without air conditioning in August).  There are times when you arrive at your hotel and the room is ready and waiting and other times when you sit on the side of the road, waiting for a tow truck.  Regardless, with a good tour guide (me), great company (classmates), and a positive attitude, we will all get closer and closer to our destination each day. 

I believe that everyone can become a good writer. I also know-- from many years of experience-- that sometimes it takes some people longer than others to become good writers.   Therefore, my goal is to start at the very beginning of each course, helping students to strive to become competent writers…by providing skills from the very beginning that will facilitate success in writing for other classes they are currently enrolled in.

 
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Harland W. Jones III

Email: hwjones@bgsu.edu

I am committed to helping students express their thoughts more clearly, and to push that thinking beyond superficial levels. In other words, critical thinking is at the heart of all that I do in a classroom, whether it’s a composition or literature or cultural studies course. I find that teaching writing works well only in the context of also teaching reading, so in all of my classes we spend time closely analyzing texts and samples. In order to promote critical thinking and student ownership of ideas, I find that a de-centered classroom is invaluable. Thus rather than lecture, I will usually break the class into small groups or pairs to work on various critical reading or collaborative writing exercises.

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Dr. Ethan Jordan

Email: ethanj@bgsu.edu

As an instructor who is committed to multimodality, rhetorical principles, and valuing literacy learning, I believe teaching is not only about developing students’ writing and composing skills, but it is also about fostering critical thought and analysis. By challenging students to think critically about complex subjects using written, visual, and oral communication principles, my teaching aims toward developing better writers, communicators, and citizens. In emphasizing rhetorical principles and the way texts are constructed, students are able to take from their course a better understanding of how their communication skills can be most effective and persuasive in their future lives, either as citizens, workers, or academics. Much of my pedagogy has been informed by study in critical pedagogy, literacy, rhetoric, and composition theory. In this way, student assignments emphasize collaborative learning, heavily process-oriented instruction, and the value of students’ own language, literacy, and experiences to communication and learning.

In using multimodal composing, my teaching is also informed by new literacy studies from researchers like the New London Group, which places more of an emphasis on broadening the notion of “text” and thinking of textual production as “design” rather than writing. Students who excel in visual productions may have difficulty expressing themselves orally, and as such the classroom provides multiple opportunities for students of many learning styles to make their arguments. Likewise, because students’ literacy is not homogeneous, multimodal communication practices aim to include those literacies that are often ignored by literacy models that emphasize “correctness” and homogeneity of communication. In my classes, students produce documentary photography books, pamphlets, visual essays, aural remixes, aural essays, literacy narratives, and short films, in addition to written works.

In this sense, I aim to emphasize the multimodal nature of communication, the need for situating students in a context for their literacy practices, creating a language for design, critical examination of design practices, and transformed designs that use rhetorical principles to persuade audiences. In addition to a focus on criticality, multiple literacies, and multimodality, I also emphasize the fluidity between theory and practice, where each intersect and inform the other in both design and analysis of texts.

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Dr. Heather Jordan

Email: hljorda@bgsu.edu

I have taught courses in first-year composition, multimodal composition, scientific and technical communication, and a first-year inquiry course that I designed to focus on the ideological nature of technology. The backbone for each of these courses has been a rhetorical approach. By teaching students to be critically aware of the larger contexts in which they compose, the varied audiences for each composition, and the basic appeals in creating argumentative documents, students are given an opportunity to learn skills that they can take with them from course to course and use later in life.

Teaching writing and how to compose in different modes has been truly rewarding. Not only do I have the privilege of encouraging students through the process of composing, but much of what the students choose to write engages them in ways that they may not explore in other courses. This, in turn, will help them to be the most effective writers and designers that they can be.

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Matt Jurak

Email: mjurak@bgsu.edu

Writing is play.

In the same way that a child picks up a stick and immediately begins to explore its possibilities – as a toy gun, a wizard’s wand, a lever, a way to hit her sister in the back of the head from a distance – successful writers pick up words and phrases and manipulate them, trying different combinations and arrangements until something happens. No magic involved, just a lot of patience, a little willpower, and a thorough knowledge of the possibilities.    

With this in mind, my classes are focused around introducing writers to the possibilities of language and argument.  A writer who’s only seen five-paragraph essays is going to write five-paragraph essays, no matter the topic.  But a writer who’s critically examined book reviews, apologias, newspaper editorials, and political concession speeches; who’s discovered how to craft not only “informative quote” introductions, but also narrative introductions, leading-question introductions, shock-value introductions; who’s learned the value of minimizing and conceding arguments as well as refuting them…that writer is going to have a hundred different options from which to choose.  

And in choosing, begin to play.  

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Cheryl Lachowski

Email: clachow@bgsu.edu

To be honest, I realize that most students, for whatever reason, wouldn’t be taking composition courses if they weren’t required to. I keep this in mind in my teaching. I try to give students as many choices as I can, both in classroom procedures and paper topics, so that meeting the objectives and standards of the General Studies Writing program can be as painless as possible.

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Dr. Cynthia Mahaffey

Email: mahaffc@bgsu.edu

Anyone who teaches first-year college students the skills and competencies of writing year after year knows that to teach with passion, grace, and joy requires us to love our students and to love teaching.  My teaching is informed by scholarship, long years of teaching practice and collaboration with gifted teaching colleagues.  But I also want to say here that when I go every day into the composition classroom, that I also want to offer my heart to my students.  I do this by teaching with joy, conveying that I know they are capable of great progress in their critical thinking and writing as they move into the tasks of academic writing and that they are capable of great writing. 

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Robert Lowe McManus

Email: rlowemc@bgsu.edu

A basic premise of my own educational philosophy is that there is a cognitive link between reading well, thinking clearly, writing proficiently, and responding ethically, but I also try to make sure the student realizes some elements of this on his or her own.  With a focus on real world exploration, I expect the writing classroom to share responsibilities between the teacher and the student, responsibilities that include developing an appreciation for subject matter, promoting an independence of inquiry, and gaining a confidence in handling standards of writing situations.  At the same time, I want my classes to take upon themselves the task of appreciating their own creativity.

Whether we work in groups, do peer-work and evaluations, listen to lectures or observe performance engagements, view videos of a writer’s humorous frustrations or test the skills of juggling ideas in synthesis, I always try to leave space for the students themselves to come to grips with ideas, theories, and recognitions, and feel a sense of personal achievement in having done so.  My goal is to set out for them, to whatever extent possible, the idea that they are involved in something wonderful as they undergo the process of exploring ideas in others’ and their own writing.

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Michael Mittman

Email: mmittma@bgsu.edu

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Deborah Oesch-Minor

Email: djoesch@bgsu.edu

My philosophy of teaching is rooted in the conviction that students bring a wealth of knowledge and interests to the composition classroom. I encourage students to engage topics they already enjoy with clarified objectives regarding audience awareness, a clear purpose and use of rhetorical conventions to achieve their desired outcomes. This sort of intentionality is essential to college level writing. Helping students become more intentional about what they wish to say and who they wish to say it to is foundational to helping them better understand basic writing skills: tense, person, point of view and correct grammatical usage. Sharing works-in-progress and developing critical reading skills are essential to providing analysis of peers’ projects and are integral parts of my process-driven pedagogy. Students share their works with peers who are encouraged to comment about the content and scope of writing projects, both affirming each peer’s writing and raising questions to help direct future revisions.

I think teaching is about engaging: connecting with my audience and bringing them on a journey with me. I use technology, visuals, videos, music and classroom activities to reinforce lectures and course concepts. I challenge students to re-see and re-think issues like world poverty, access to power/technology and equal rights. I strive to create an open, inviting classroom where civil discourse is maintained and students from a variety of backgrounds and world views can feel like they are part of a community of writers.

In the Composition classroom, I see it as my responsibility to help students better understand the importance of conceptualizing, researching, drafting and revising credible arguments. Exploring electronic and paper resources, assessing the credibility of resources and being able to use a handbook (usually MLA or APA) to document resources helps first year writing students develop credible arguments and better understanding some of the expectations of academic writing. I also encourage students to integrate technology into projects and presentations to bring visual reinforcement and enhanced rhetorical engagement.

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Matt Rome

Email: mrome@bgsu.edu

I believe it is my responsibility to help students make a smooth and effective transition into the realm of academic and professional writing, ensuring that they receive a strong foundation in the rhetorical and analytical skills necessary to succeed.

In the classroom, I always aspire to foster an open and honest environment that encourages discussion among students, because I believe in the importance of critical thinking, expression of opinion, and the exploration of new perspectives and ideas.  Students can learn as much from each other as they can from me.

As an instructor, my goal is to engage students in a manner that keeps them interested and invested in their writing.  I believe this can be achieved by linking contemporary critical issues and themes to their writing situation.  Doing so sparks interest and participation, which leads to a strong and positive learning environment.

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Amy Rybak

Email: arybak@bgsu.edu

I encourage my students to see writing as a process, one that emphasizes prewriting and revision techniques. I spend a lot of time conferencing individually with students and I find that this, more than anything, helps student writers internalize the steps needed to eventually complete the process on their own. While they are composing, I encourage students to take advantage of the insights of other writers including their peers, parents, teachers from other classes, and the Writing Center tutors. When designing assignments, I always try to create opportunities for “real life application” to help my students see their writing as more than “just another English essay.” It is my hope that my students will sense the influence that their writing can have on others, and that they can - in a way - "change the world with their writing.”

Winner of Arts and Sciences 2006-2007 Distinguished Instructor/Lecturer Award

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Dan Rzicznek

Email: fdrzicz@bgsu.edu

As a full-time member of GSW’s teaching staff my goals have been to assist students in developing their critical thinking skills, to provide them with the tools to transfer their thoughts into written argumentative essays, and to engage students as a community of writers. Helping students understand that their voices matter and can be heard is the first step in getting them to think critically about both their own writing and the work of other writers. In all the classes I have instructed, I’ve made it an unspoken, semester-long project for my students to challenge their own perceptions of what they can and can’t successfully write about. I’ve always felt that my students immediately warm-up to the idea that the whole class (teacher included) are writers who will be learning primarily from themselves and one another. 

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Amanda McGuire Rzicznek

Email: amcguir@bgsu.edu

Before students can be expected to write effectively they must be given the tools to do so. My goal is to engage students with the basics of writing: audience, thesis/focus, organization/structure, development, and grammar. I accomplish this goal by explaining these basic concepts of writing during in-class lectures. After lecturing, I provide students with examples and exercises to reinforce the aforementioned concepts. Also, by providing students with careful and liberal feedback on their rough and final drafts as well as conferencing with them one-to-one, I further emphasize how they can apply the material presented in class to their writing assignments in the Composition classroom and writing assignments for courses in other disciplines. Additionally, through exercises such as in-class writing and collaborative groups, it is my hope that students are able to express their thoughts on paper without feeling outside pressures (from themselves, peers, or even me). I believe that it is my responsibility to help students feel comfortable in their roles as writers and readers. Ultimately, through my student-centered teaching philosophy and pedagogy, my goal is to teach students writing matters, especially their writing.

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Christof Scheele

Email: scheele@bgsu.edu

My approach to the teaching of composition is predicated on the notion that writing is not inherently boring, and in fact can be fun, an exercise not only in critical thinking, but in creativity and self-expression. I try to model this attitude in the classroom and in my teaching materials by introducing the concept early in the semester to the group as a whole, presenting textual examples and advocating freedom of discussion, then reminding each student individually through encouragement in the planning stages of written work and commentary on successive drafts.

In the pursuit of this belief, I have a responsibility to recognize and call to the fore the individual, unmistakable voice in each student, that element which seems so often silenced through neglect, yet without which no truly dynamic writing can occur. Somewhere along the way, the sense of play has vanished from the scene, with it all excitement in the writer, and thus too often all interest in the writing. There is no good reason for this. In fact, there is every reason it should not be so. The challenge, then, is to foster change, and at the same time introduce and facilitate the pursuit of fluency in the academic argumentative mode. These are not mutually exclusive goals. The truth is, they compliment each other. Experience has shown me that the roots can take hold, though success can be hard to measure beyond the products of a mind over one, maybe two, semesters.

This fundamental allegiance translates in practice to a certain simplicity of design. I expect of my students what I expect of myself. I tell them so. We owe each other honesty, diligence, and a respect stemming from our common humanity and our common cause.

In the classroom, I balance lecture always with practice. I work to incorporate all technologies that I’ve found useful. I strive to listen as much as I talk. I encourage an ease structured ultimately to stay on task. I find and preserve that crucial balance between relaxed affability and determined authority. After eight years, I’m pretty good at all this on good days, mediocre, I’d guess, on bad ones, and dedicated throughout to getting better.

I try above all to do what I can to help students along. It’s the how I’m here for in the end, I think. It’s easy of course to throw around the catchphrase process. I’ve done so myself, and watched it deflate to nothing. I handle the term more carefully now, because, in fact, it lies at the heart of my methodology, and so deserves to be used purposely and with pointed meaning. The process of writing is real and complex beyond pat explanation. I respect it in theory, but more importantly honor it in practice as it presents itself in the course of a semester.

So it’s on the individual, and the opportunity to work with each, that I place my bets. This for me is the very essence of the work, the source of greatest disappointment perhaps, but also greatest reward. In discussion, conference in or out of class, direct exchange on the job at hand, the writing unfolding before us, in this I find what I most love about teaching. A human being, a voice, resides in the words. Something is being created. I might not know what it is. Never mind. Whenever I’m invited, I step carefully and happily into that world.

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Michael Schulz

Email: mschulz@bgsu.edu

As a teacher of writing, I want my students to learn how to improve their writing skills and to be proactive in gaining the knowledge to do so.  I want them to care about writing as a form of communication and expression.  And if they feel that they don’t have the ability to become a better writer, then they need to know that they can improve and that I am there to guide them. With higher education becoming more of a means for employment and less of a way for students to explore learning, it is important for students to understand that learning how to create, learning how to read and write critically, and learning how to express themselves with written ideas are skills that transcend disciplines.  When taking one of my courses, I hope students understand that being able to write well is a reflection of their ability to think and communicate clearly.

Ultimately, it is my responsibility to provide students with as much information and assistance as I can to help them become more successful students and writers.  In composition courses, this approach requires significant individual attention to the writing that each student produces and an understanding about how each student’s attitude and skill set may differ.  As I learn these characteristics of students I expect them to understand these characteristics about themselves as well and to take the initiative to improve where needed.  The most successful students in my courses seem to be those who want to learn, who want their writing to get better, and those who take responsibility for their decisions.

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Stacey Suver

Email: sasuver@bgsu.edu

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Chad Van Buskirk

Email: cvanbus@bgsu.edu

M.A. English, University of Maine, 2012
M.A. TESOL, University of Findlay, 2008
B.A. English, Bluffton University, 2005

My approach to teaching writing in the university setting involves facilitating a classroom environment where students develop a sense of academic inquiry. Informed by the work of literacy and composition scholars such as James Paul Gee, Min-Zhan Lu, Bruce Horner, and the New London Group, my teaching practices entail encouraging students to think consciously about and analyze the conventions that influence the creation and reception of particular texts.

We often begin by acknowledging and discussing the fact that there is no static, permanent definition of good writing. That is, “good writing” is entirely context dependent. In order to be successful writers inside and outside of the academy, we must develop an ability to discern and adapt to the conventions that govern a particular discourse community and a particular writing event. If students are expected to leave my classroom prepared to write effectively for a diverse array of courses and professions, they will need to know how to orient themselves in each writing environment they encounter. Therefore, the questions I ask in class and on drafts serve to increase students’ reflective awareness of their own reading and writing habits and of the multiple literacies they have developed, as well as those literacies they will be required to develop throughout their academic and professional careers. We also examine a variety of essays from a diverse collection of writers (including those enrolled in the course) in order to consider how each author’s aims and context might have influenced the content and form of these texts.  Additionally, we write in response to and discuss course assignments and assessment criteria as a way of consciously considering how these parameters might influence the composing of our own texts.

It has been my experience that students appreciate this approach, as it finally gives them license to stop chasing after a mirage of “correct” writing that might always seems to be beyond their grasp. Instead, my approach to teaching composition lends itself to an ongoing, semester-long conversation about reading and writing that is taken up in class discussions, writing assignments, peer review sessions, and instructor-student conferences. As part of my dedication to encouraging this extended conversation, I try to make myself readily available to address questions and read over drafts. I believe in being a presence on campus and hold office hours at a variety of set times and by appointment. I provide a discussion board within our course management system for students to interact with me and with their peers. Finally, I have found that significant discussions about student writing often take place during conferences. Therefore, I attempt to conference with each individual student at least three times per semester.

I believe students become reflective, adaptable, successful writers through intentional examination and discussion of the writing conventions they encounter. In my class, we seek to use the insights we gain from such examinations to improve our writing practices in all of their multiple forms.

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Ann Westrick

Email: awest@bgsu.edu

Both as a professional and as a human being, I have always wanted to affect people in a profound way; I have always wanted to make a difference. While freshman writing is too frequently seen as a class students are “forced to take” to “meet a requirement,” when approached with enthusiasm and humanity, not only can students be taught how to write powerfully and purposefully, but they can also be encouraged to question their perceptions of themselves and of the world. With this philosophy in mind, I embrace the teaching of first-year writing.

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Elizabeth Zemanski

Position: Assistant Director
Email: eloo@bgsu.edu

As a composition instructor, I strive to facilitate students’ learning by providing them with tools they will need to navigate complex texts and images and respond to those complex texts and images.  I help students understand how in academia, and often in their professional and personal lives, they will be expected to respond to complex ideas by entering conversations and articulating their own points of view.  Composing written work is often the ideal vehicle for young people to articulate their positions on issues affecting their local, national and global communities. And as I help students use tools to compose professional, argumentative pieces on current issues, I encourage students to gain a sense of independence as they respond and write.  However, as important as it is for students to craft original ideas, and grow as independent thinkers, it is equally important for students to negotiate their value systems in lieu of other, diverse value systems.  To this end, I hope to create a learning community founded on mutual collaboration, respectful discussion, honest critique, and self-reflection.  If students invest in this learning environment, they will learn a range of skills to succeed in this writing class and beyond.