Student & Faculty Spotlights

Student Spotlights

MaryjoPlease tell us a bit about yourself!  

I am a retired teacher with 36 plus years in the high school classroom. My choice to teach high school English was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I never once thought of teaching as a job — it was my passion. I was in four school systems but spent the last twenty-five years at Marion L. Steele High School in Amherst, Ohio — that is a town just about a half hour West of downtown Cleveland. It is a wonderful community and was a great place to teach. I taught at all four levels, but spent the majority of my career teaching juniors American Literature and writing.

People would ask me what hobbies I had, and my reply was “teaching.” Oh, I love reading and theatre and have done my fair share of traveling, but honestly, I was happiest in the classroom. Don’t misunderstand, teaching is hard work and teaching English is, I think, one of the more difficult subjects. I could go on and on about teaching writing, but this isn’t the place for that. I will just say that it comes with special challenges. I can honestly say my students taught me something every single day — even that you can tie a piece of hair around a fly and take it for a walk across your desk. True story! (You always have that one student!)

What made you decide to return for your MA this fall after taking time away?

This is a bit of a long story. After I retired, I really missed the classroom. I thought teaching at Lorain Community College would be a perfect fit, but I needed a Master’s Degree for that. I had started a program back in the '80s, but then I got married and moved out of state for awhile. Let’s just say life got in the way. So here I am at age 68, trying to finish this degree. Call me crazy; sometimes I think I am.

At the end of last summer, I inquired about another job at LCCC and had the good fortune of meeting Karin Hooks Ph.D., who schedules the adjunct instructors. She encouraged me to try to find a school that would allow me to finish my degree without completely starting over, and she thought my alma mater would be a good place to start. Then I was fortunate enough to meet Kimberly Spallinger, who made it all possible. I also have the support of a wonderful husband who has always encouraged me to do what makes me happy.
Even if I never teach again, this degree is something I am doing for myself. It is unfinished business in my life. I know a lot of people might not understand that, but again "old age" provides a wisdom that we don't have in our youth. When we are young, we are often working toward that degree to get a particular position; we don't value education for education's sake.

I am about to finish my first semester, and it has been more than I could have expected. Great professors and great classmates. I wasn’t sure you could get an education online, but it has been surprisingly rewarding in ways I didn’t expect. I love the dialogue among classmates. I have learned so much from them.

What is the biggest difference between your past graduate experience and your current one?

Wow, where do I start? Technology, technology, technology. I have had to really embrace the 21st century. I have done things with technology that I never thought possible. It has been so good to stretch my brain. I highly recommend getting out of your comfort zone, especially if you are older. It has been most satisfying, albeit a little frustrating at times.

I was actually excited to see some of the same names when it comes to teaching writing that i studied in the '80s: it felt like coming home in a way. Made me feel like I wasn’t completely out of the loop.

Now that you have embraced online learning for yourself, how do you see yourself incorporating any digital tools, or online learning spaces into your own teaching in the future?

Since I am not currently in a classroom I have a difficult time thinking about how we would utilize technology, though I have some thoughts. I did a project with my juniors that they loved. After reading “Young Goodman Brown,” which can be a difficult story for high schoolers, I put students in groups and had them illustrate the plot in pictures and quotes. They used giant rolls of white paper and sprawled in the hallway. Today, I can see the same assignment only in digital format.

I would also like to implement something like we do in the online classes, where students have to respond to each other. I think the daily writing for their peers would really help to hone their writing skills. Or maybe even creating writing blogs. Just feel like I can’t nail it down until I am back in the classroom. I will tell you this — I will never use technology for the sake of technology. I already hear that students are sick of Power Points because all of the teachers use them. I think we need to shake it up, and again maybe this is age talking, but sometimes I think as much as kids love technology, they also like the “old-fashioned” approach once in a while.

What advice would you offer to anyone hoping to return to graduate school (or academia in general) after some time away?

As I said above, be prepared to get outside of your comfort zone, but don’t doubt yourself. It is a cliche, but if it is something important to you, you can make it happen. Besides, the years pass regardless, so why not do something with them? That’s old age talking. :)

CMalone

Kyle, Marty, Cindy, Samantha and Tyler  

Cindy Malone, an MA student with a specialization in teaching, recently agreed to a short interview, in which she reflects on her love of teaching, her goals after the MA program, and the importance of self-care and her family to her success. 

Please tell us a bit about yourself!  

I began teaching in 2008 when my two kids were old enough to go to daycare. I began teaching in Dallas in a Title One school (low income) and then in 2010 moved to Mansfield, Texas where I am now. I can teach all levels, 9-12, but I have not ever taught Freshman. My husband teaches math at the same high school where I teach English.

My husband and I just celebrated our 17th anniversary. I have a stepson, Tyler, who plays wheelchair basketball at MIZZOU. I have a son Kyle who is 15 and is a sophomore at our high school. My daughter is 13 and in the 8th grade. Her name is Samantha.

I am currently enrolled in the Master’s program in English with a specialization in teaching. I spent a long time searching for a program and I could not find one that was English focused more than education focused. Don’t get me wrong, I love my craft and I love talking and learning about teaching, but I also love reading and writing and literature. Most people in my position who return for their graduate degree are going into administration. Honestly, I like kids way more than adults so I don’t want to be a principal. I would much rather spend my time with students than teachers.

My goal is ultimately to become a Composition I and Literature I teacher at a junior college. I loved my time at Tarrant County College. I love the smaller classes and non-traditional students.

I am also a freelance writer although I have only worked for local magazines as of yet. I am also working on a book (aren’t we all?) as well as some articles for a state level magazine, just for the experience.

What do you love most about teaching? What inspires you as an educator?

I have always said that if you love small children you teach elementary. If you love the subject, you teach high school. I did not start out excited to work with teenagers. I started out excited to teach literature and writing. I truly love it. I get excited talking about. I am passionate about relating literature to real-world examples and watching the kids light up when they see a connection between a text they assumed they would hate and something they care about today. I grew to love high schoolers. Maybe it is because I can be a little more relaxed with them. I can talk about themes that are a little more adult. Maybe it is because I still think I am in my 20s (even though my body screams 41 every morning when my alarm goes off).

As an educator, I am not actually inspired by other educators. Don’t get me wrong, I know several great teachers. And I love learning from them. But I am inspired by tiny moments. That moment you hear a kid tell a friend “It’s hard but I learned a lot in her class.” or “Thanks Ms. Malone. I got into that college you helped me write the essay for.” or “You were my favorite teacher even though I failed or even though it wasn’t my best grade.” Or my personal favorite, “You were right! I actually made an A in comp I because of all you taught me.” I love when you watch a student read and his eyes get really big at exactly the right part and you know he is fully comprehending the book and just got to the “good part.” I love the word “ooohhhhhhhh” when a student gets something for the first time. Those are my inspirations.

As a veteran secondary-ed teacher, how do you approach teaching students at different levels, and with different goals both academically and professionally?

This is definitely the hardest part of my job. I look out at a class of 30 where 5 are sped, 3 are ESL, 5 are just behind because of no home environment that promotes reading and writing, 10 are relatively on level and 7 are GT. I want to teach a really engaging lesson but how do I engage them all? And if I had 3 class periods to teach the same lesson I could teach it 10 different ways until everyone got it. What I normally do is if I teach one lesson with movement and gallery walks and games and whatnot, the next lesson may be notes or visual. Then perhaps group work before they write on their own. I meet one on one with my students at least once per 6 weeks to check in on their progress and how they are progressing and what they need.

As far as professionally, I do things a bit different. For my seniors, for the beginning of the year through a previously identified testing day (October 16th this year) when they take the SAT, I work on SAT prep. Most of them have taken it before but we are working on improvement. Then we work through a novel and work on the types of things they will be asked to do in college. We look at short stories and articles and poetry that go with it and analyze themes, take notes, and research relevant topics. This year we will do Frankenstein. We will look at scientific issues, the concept of the other, and mental illness. I want them to find things for themselves.

I also want to work on how they interact with groups. I realized in this program how much we really do work in groups and that is a skill not everyone, including myself, has. Then, the last grading period, I am separating them into groups based on their plans. Yes, I know they can change, but it’s the best we have right now. With my kids going into a vocation like welding, carpentry, landscaping, building, painting, electrician, plumbing etc, we are going to work on contracts and bids and stuff like that. We have a large vocational school in Mansfield so several of our students graduate with certificates in a vocation. My kids going straight into the workforce will work on cover letters, resumes and interview skills. Finally, my kids going into college will look at the basic writing types they will experience in Comp 1 and get a head start on what that will look like.

With all you have going on—teaching, being a student, wife, mother, and fighting cancer—how do you practice self-care and keep from “burning out”?

I am not sure I have stopped from burning out. Honestly. I feel like I burn out and then regroup. Sometimes I do not think I will be able to finish this program. Sometimes I am working on homework at 11pm on a work night because it is the first moment I had to sit down. But I push through. There have been times that literally the only thing keeping me going is that I am frugal and hate the idea of losing the money. But hey—whatever works. Plus, sometimes I get engrossed in a text or assignment and I catch myself having fun. Smiling even. I really love to learn.

This may be too honest, but being a wife is one of the hardest things to do while working, mothering and being a student. As a child (you know, until 23 or so) I thought marriage was easy. I mean, I was getting a partner to help with everything I was previously doing alone. Nope. Marriage is a job. It is work. Last year, after a few hard years where we felt like we were both so busy with “life” that we put each other and our relationship on the back burner, he and I did a book study. We met three times a week during lunch and worked through “The Five Love Languages.” Sometimes we didn’t even make it through a page. We took notes, had frank discussions. A few arguments but we were learning how to end them without hurting one another. It was a definite positive change. We are looking are doing another one next summer.

Being a mom to teenagers is way harder than toddlers. Whoever said 3 year olds are the worst did not have two hormonal, cranky, moody, weird and smelly teenagers at once. I taxi them around, come home, and stay in my room. I mean, way more than I should. We eat together every night and we chat and then if it is a weekend, and we can agree, we might watch something together, but then, they call their friends and I head back into my cave of safety where I avoid the zombie teenage apocalypse.

Fighting cancer daily sucks. In fact, the name of the book I am working on is called “Cancer Sucks.” It is draining because even on days when I am not having a treatment or a test, I have a million little reminders that bring me down. Luckily, I have not needed surgery or radiation in a few years, but next week I head back to MD Anderson in Houston for a follow up test for an abnormal result from last time. It is so stressful. I wish I could stop thinking about it for a whole day but I cannot. It weighs on me. However, I will have a good test result and get to stop medication for a little bit and I remember that my life is pretty good. I have a long and good marriage. Two healthy, although annoying, kids. I have a good job that I actually like. I learn every day so I don’t get bored. I have great friends, not many, but great. It is a life worth fighting for.

SHeron

Please tell us a bit about yourself!

This is my 8th year in public education. Though I majored in history as an undergraduate, I have spent my career teaching high school English—the first four years in West Virginia, the most recent four years in Virginia. This August, however, instead of thinking about my teenage students, I’m thinking about babies; my wife and I are expecting twins this month, and we are so excited to begin the exciting (crazy?) adventure that is parenthood.

How did you get involved working with the writing center?

I was a writing tutor as an undergraduate student, so when I learned that my county supported writing centers at the high school level, I naturally jumped at the chance to start one in my building. This will be my third year directing the writing center. In that time, we have experienced tremendous growth; we’ve gone from recruiting tutors sporadically during study hall to offering students a year-long course in which they receive academic credit for the tutoring they complete. Last year, we completed over 1,500 individual and small-group writing tutorials, and I can’t wait to see what year three has in store!

What was the greatest challenge of starting a writing center? How did you overcome obstacles in the process?

In a word: advertising. There is so much going on at a high school—it takes consistent, assertive advertising to make faculty and students aware of (not to mention comfortable with) the service. To address this issue, tutors have advertised in a variety of ways—from posters and word-of-mouth to social media campaigns and faculty/student presentations.  

What is your favorite part of writing center work?

Observing writing tutorials—getting the chance to watch my students tutor—is by far the most rewarding part of directing a writing center. The enthusiasm these students have for writing is contagious; the look on a client’s face when they overcome writer's block, or when they learn a new writing skill, is priceless.

How would you describe your “philosophy” for writing center work?

Writing is difficult. Writing is abstract. Writing is difficult because it is abstract. At Rock Ridge, students learn how to leverage their limited time by creating measurable objectives at the start of each session. Not only do these objectives (i.e. create a thesis statement, review errors in MLA format, evaluate effectiveness of textual integration, etc.) provide a sense of focus, but it helps build in clients the metalanguage needed to talk about their own writing. Above all, a measurable objective allows tutors and clients to see the progress they make during a session, as they can compare the work they completed to their original goal. This helps make writing a little less abstract.

What are your main professional goals within your program and beyond? 

It was my work in the writing center that led me to Bowling Green State University. I wanted to learn all that I could about how to make students better writers and how to make students learn to love (or at least like) writing. I’m currently completing the MA in English with a specialization in English teaching along with the certificate in college writing. With the credentials and skills acquired in this program, I hope to continue teaching and directing my high school writing center, with the goal of one day teaching or directing a writing center at a community college or four-year university. 

Here is a link to the writing center website, created by one of my amazing tutors!

Are you interested in being Spotlighted? Do you have an exciting success story to share? Let us know!

MStai 

Tell us a little about yourself! Why did you choose this program/specialization?

It has always been a dream of mine to receive a master’s degree. After scouring the internet for an online program that focused on English but gave tips and tricks for how to better incorporate literature into the classroom, I finally landed upon the program at BGSU. It was love at first sight! I want to be able to heighten my knowledge of writing and literature so that I can be the best teacher for my students.

What do you like most about your program and coursework at BGSU?

I really do love the fact that I get to take classes that focus on really interesting topics-- Victorian femme fatales, The Handmaid’s Tale, grammar, to name a few-- and learn how to best incorporate those skills into my classroom. Plus, I have had the great privilege of working with wonderful classmates who challenge and inspire me.

What are your plans for the future? How do you believe your program will help you reach these goals?

I have dreams of one day teaching at the collegiate level, but for the time being, I will continue to use the knowledge and skills that I have gained at BGSU to make my classroom a more challenging, invigorating environment.

JLozier

Tell us about yourself and why you chose this program/specialization

I live in a very rural area in CA—the nearest community college is 90 miles away! This means that online education is the only way that I could further my career as a high school English teacher. BGSU's program fit all of my criteria: 1) affordable, 2) 100% online, 3) summer classes, and 4) a reputable institution.

BGSU is the only MA English program that I found that met all of these criteria, and what's more, the program was designed for English teachers. I could not possibly go wrong! I have learned so much from my classmates—who are all teachers as well—and I hope they have learned as much from me in return.

What do you like most about your program and coursework at BGSU?

The instructors have been the most memorable part of this experience. Several were so active in the discussion forums that I began to feel like I knew the teachers personally. Some even required video posts or Skype interviews, so I even had a face and a voice to place with the name. They were always available via email, and responded in a timely manner. I had absolutely no problems getting help with an assignment or direction for a paper. The teaching staff for these classes really understand how to make the online learning experience meaningful for everyone enrolled. As a result of being led by excellent teachers, the forums became a place for honest communication and thought-provoking ideas.

What are your plans for the future? How do you believe your program will help you reach these goals?

I am a high school English teacher. I pursued my MA to earn professional development credits as well as to fill in gaps in my education. My BA did not cover much in the way of writing instruction, and after a few years of teaching, I realized that I needed to work on this area. The MA-ET program provided several classes to fill this need, and I have been well-armed to take what I have learned back to my classroom.

I have already begun to implement much of what I learned, which has significantly changed the way that I teach. I have seen many beneficial changes in my students, and this will surely improve as I continue to integrate what I have learned and to get the bugs out of what I have already tried to use. My remaining years as a teacher in a small town have been profoundly affected by this experience.

Faculty Spotlights

Silhouette Ethan

Dr. Ethan T. Jordan

Please tell us a bit about yourself!

I’ve been teaching composition courses for the past 14 years or so, and I’ve also had a variety of teaching opportunities in film, multimodal communication, video game studies, and graduate courses in pedagogy. My family likes to joke that I have a “doctorate in video games,” which is kind of true. I went to school (from Head Start to grad school) for 23 years in a row. In my spare time, I love taking walks with my wife, building Legos with my son, and consuming any media I can!

How long have you been teaching in the MA Online program? What are some of the benefits you see in online education?

I’ve taught in the online MA program off and on for the past 3 years, and I’m teaching all grad courses this 2019-2020 academic year. I like that online teaching requires us to make visible a lot of invisible thinking; it requires me to unpack my teaching methods in face-to-face courses and change their modality. In other words, I have to reexamine what I do in the classroom and make it work in an online space, so I’m essentially remixing my teaching as I go. Students also get the benefit of doing the same, which I hope helps cement ideas for them in remixing their own responses and engaging with the course ideas.

Does your teaching philosophy change whether you are teaching in person or online? What about your teaching style?

I hope that neither my philosophy or style of teaching change too much in the online space! The goal is to translate what I find successful in-person for the digital work we do in online courses, but I also want to learn from students as much as I can. All of our concerns with writing and teaching students to write are partial, subjective, and never complete. If I get to teach online MA students, I also learn their ways of knowing and being as teachers and researchers. My philosophy is always about building knowledge with students, rather than transporting it to them, so the online space certainly helps us to build a body of work and ideas together digitally.

Ethan Jordan

We know that teaching is only part of what you do at BGSU and beyond. What are some current research projects or service roles you are taking on?

This year, I’m beginning service work in the department as coordinator of the Digital Pedagogy Collective, which is a group dedicated to expanding digital teaching methods and skills in the English department at BGSU. The group will facilitate instructional sessions throughout the year to enhance instructors’ digital repertoires and, as a result, create better outcomes for student learners. My research is always focused on the classroom, so I’m exploring assignment sequences that deal with aural rhetoric, and I’m also looking at the impact of component content management in course design. I also actively aid in graphic design projects for the department and for local groups in the Bowling Green area, including the city of Bowling Green, La Conexión, and my local church.

What would you say you are most proud of either as a teacher, researcher, or member of the academic community?

I’m most proud of the fact that I’m helping students. Ever since I was a kid and helped my neighbors in grade school with their homework, it’s the same feeling; I am proud that my work helps anyone really, and I’m appreciative that I get to do this for a living because I find it quite fulfilling. I’m also proud that I have found ways to take my personal interests and make them work in academia.

What is the best advice you could give future teachers?

Always err on the side of kindness and positivity. I don’t believe we learn from harsh criticism, punishment, or breaking people down. I want to build up students, and I want to learn from them as well. I also am of the firm belief that I can’t make anyone learn anything; I can only provide an environment where students can learn. As I teacher, I also think we must be kind. Always.