Student & Faculty Spotlights
Please tell us a bit about yourself!
My husband and I have raised two wonderful young men and have recently become grandparents. We also recently downsized and moved into our dream home, a log cabin on 15 wooded acres in southwest Michigan. My professional background includes technical editing, ghostwriting, teaching at a community college, and developing training programs for business and industry. I have also taught professional development courses and coached several nonfiction and fiction novel writers.
During your time studying for the Professional Writing and Rhetoric program, what was your favorite course? What made it so special?
All my courses contained enjoyable elements. The ones that stand out the most are those I took with Dr. Heba. All his classes were highly relevant to my career goals. In addition, the assignments and projects helped me build a solid portfolio to use during my job search after graduation. Of all the classes I took with Dr. Heba, Visual Rhetoric and Practices of Writing stand out as both one of the most challenging and special. Visual Rhetoric challenged me with its theory and analytical approaches to the visuals that have become such an integral part of our culture. I gained a new understanding of why and how visuals obtained the status they have today as well as of the tremendous power they have to persuade. The topics I chose for my two research papers in that class were not only fun for me, but they gave me opportunity to explore two areas of interests in deeper and more meaningful ways.
Can you tell us about your current position?
My current work includes both freelance writing and editing. This involves researching and writing new blog posts as well as revising current content for an online safety products retailer. I also do copy editing for an online educational website that provides prospective healthcare students with the information they need to choose the best career and educational path for them. I also copy edit and proofread novels for an international publishing company. In addition, I continue coaching fiction and nonfiction novel writers. I also hope to teach writing classes for a college or university in the near future as well.
How has obtaining the degree impacted/supported your current work?
One of my main goals with my degree was to develop a theoretical base that would strengthen my approaches to writing, editing, and teaching, and it has done exactly that. I can better analyze my audiences and can create higher quality content by synthesizing it with relevant research. Obtaining a degree also took my writing and editing work to a higher level of quality by challenging me to be more analytical and by helping me to better identify quality research. In addition, a master’s degree will also allow me to teach at the college or university level again. Finally, obtaining my master’s degree gave me much-needed confidence for fully reentering the workforce now that my boys are adults and beginning their own careers. This confidence came through the depth of instruction received, the challenging assignments, and then opportunities to pursue specific topics of interest.
What might you tell others considering the same program?
While searching for work after obtaining my degree, I became convinced of the value of developing an area of expertise. In other words, specialize. Decide a focus area (maybe two, related areas) for your studies, and use your projects and assignments for class to develop expertise in those areas. For technical writers, this might be medical/science writing, programming, or financing/investing. For educators, specialty areas could be instructional design or teaching technical writing. Look at the classes you plan to take ahead of time and develop a plan for integrating your specialty area into each one. Think about what you might research and how you could build knowledge in your chosen area of expertise. To help with this, search postings for jobs you might enjoy, and ask your advisor for guidance in how to delve into the topics most relevant to your goals. Within this, realize that keeping technology knowledge current is crucial, so look for ways to develop this area during your studies as well. Finally, consider customizing your degree program based on what you discover in your planning.
For our latest graduate spotlight, we interviewed Kelly Tracy who is a graduate of the Certificate in College Writing and graduated in May 2019.
How would you describe your educational and professional journey? How and why did you end up where you at now?
I have an MA in Applied Linguistics and English as a Second Language from Georgia State University and a BA in mass communication from Brenau University. I’ve taught mostly university and pre-university students, both undergraduate and graduate, at schools across Georgia and Tennessee. Most recently, I taught in the intensive English program at the Savannah College of Art and Design.
My husband and I have both been in a season of career transition, and I came across the position at Carey. It sounded like a perfect combination of the classroom teaching that I love and the opportunity to use my experience and knowledge to help lead a language program. I was honored to be offered the position and begin last August. My family and I are enjoying exploring the Baltimore-D.C. area and getting used to winter weather outside of the South.
What are your primary responsibilities as the Assistant Director of the English Language Program at John Hopkins?
I’m part of a team of three assistant directors in our program. In addition to teaching sections of our Business English for Graduates courses, I develop and implement programming for Carey’s international students, such as language skill workshops and opportunities for informal conversation practice. I also collaborate with the other assistant directors on curriculum updates and revisions. I also conduct one-to-one tutoring sessions focusing on fluency and pronunciation. Finally, my team interviews, makes hiring recommendations for, and mentors adjunct faculty and graduate assistants.
What are the biggest challenges and rewards you have faced in this line of work, whether in this role, or another?
Moving from a long-term adjunct teaching position into a more administrative role was not something I had imagined five years ago. Now that it’s reality, I’m excited about the possibilities to help shape a program at a relatively young school (Carey Business School was founded in 2007) with the resources and name recognition of the country's oldest research university. Even five months in, I’ve been able to make a difference. I recently led the development of a speaking assessment rubric to help our admissions team accurately place incoming students into our classes. As we enter the spring semester, I’m preparing to conduct a needs analysis to see how we can best support our students in their degree programs. I appreciate the trust from my departmental leaders as I look for ways to improve how we support our students in their academic and professional lives.
In what ways did your education through BGSU shape your professional and personal identity? What might you tell others considering the same certificate program?
I’m just enough of a nerd to have been excited about getting back into the student role 15 years after completing my master’s degree! The convenience of online coursework was a must as I explored certificate programs, and the small classes meant that I never felt lost in the crowd. My instructors were very accessible and enthusiastic about helping me follow my research interests, which often related college writing theory to the needs of nonnative speakers of English. Thanks to my research project in Ethan Jordan’s course on multimodal composition, I am preparing to present at this year’s TESOL International Conference (the main professional conference in the English language teaching field) on using Instagram to reinforce rhetorical concepts.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I earned an M.A. in Cross-Cultural and International Education at BGSU in 2015, through which I earned my TESOL certificate. Prior to my time at BGSU I spent about a decade teaching EFL first through the Peace Corps in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan and then as a teacher and academic director of a private language institute in South Korea. Since graduating from BGSU I have been a foreign student advisor at the University of Arkansas. I have also continued to work in ESL within my community by being an instructor, board member and teacher trainer here at the Ozark Literacy Council here in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
What made you initially decide to pursue to TESOL certificate?
While I spent a lot of time teaching abroad, I never got a lot of full-time study to develop and refine my skills as an ESL instructor. It was mostly on-the-job training, short workshops and seminars, but never months at a time studying and reflecting on those studies. The TESOL certificate provided that opportunity.
What were the most impactful experiences for you in working toward the TESOL certificate at BGSU?
Unlike a lot of people in the program, I had taught and even trained people to teach for quite some time prior to entering the certificate program, so I had my own ideas and opinions on "best practices." Kimberly and Sheri really made me challenge and think hard about many of those practices and helped me develop new ones. Also, while I had taught quite a bit of conversational English and had become pretty good at it, I had obtained little experience/expertise at teaching other aspects of ESL like reading and writing. I think the program helped me start to develop those areas of my ESL abilities.
Can you tell us about your current position? What role do you play at the University of Arkansas?
I am a foreign student advisor here at the U of A and act as the current Arkansas State Liaison for International Education through NAFSA. I am also heavily involved in the work of the local literacy council for northwest Arkansas.
How has obtaining the TESOL certificate impacted/supported your current work?
So I do not use what I learned here at the U of A so much (although students are always amazed at how well I can pronounce their names which is, of course, thanks to Dr. Sheri Well-Jensen's Applied Phonology course), but it has been of great use in becoming a teacher trainer and board member of the local literacy council. I was asked to join the board after only a couple months of volunteer teaching at the Ozark Literacy Council and am one of the teacher trainers for the new batch of Americorps volunteers we receive each fall.
Finally, do you have any suggestions for students who are considering working toward the TESOL certificate?
I think it's just as important to try and develop your skills outside of the classroom as it is inside. The TESOL certificate program offers superb in-class instruction, but I would also recommend seeking out opportunities to work or volunteer in the Bowling Green community and/or online. I think practicing what you learn is just as important as learning it. There are definitely opportunities to do this, although you may need to seek them out.
Please tell us a bit about yourself!
So, I’m Christine and I’m a graduate student in the English program with a specialization in English teaching. I currently live in Jinju, South Korea where I work as an EFL teacher at a government-run after school program. I’ve been living in Korea for 17 months now, but I am originally from the Lehigh Valley area in Pennsylvania.
When I’m not teaching or doing homework, I’m usually cooking, reading, or planning my next travel excursion. Along with traveling around Korea, I’ve been to 13 countries with two more trips coming up this year!
Living and working abroad for over a year, what are the biggest cultural differences you have experienced between life in the United States versus South Korea? Have you noticed any differences in terms of language use and ideals about writing, specifically?
I get asked this question a lot, and sometimes it is hard for me to see the cultural differences because I have been gone for so long. I think something that’s still really shocking to me is when I’m approached by strangers who want to practice their English. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I’m always surprised.
As far as language, Korean is very different than English. I don’t know enough about the language to really make comparisons on writing ideals, but I do know the grammar structure is much different than that of English, because the verb comes last. There are also honorifics in Korean, so words take on different endings depending on who you are talking to.
What challenges and rewards have you experienced as you juggle a full time teaching load and an online graduate education?
One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is time management. I’m an early bird when it comes to doing school work, but I also don’t work well at home, especially since I live in a studio apartment. The downside is most cafes don’t open until 10am, so I try to cram as much work into the weekends as possible. Whenever I tell myself I’ll do homework after work, it doesn’t happen. The biggest rewards from the program are being able to incorporate techniques and methods I’ve learned in my studies into my classes. Having no former teacher training, I will say that the program at BGSU has done wondrous things for my instruction in the classroom!
What do you love most about teaching? How has your time in the MA program shaped your approach to instruction?
My favorite thing about teaching is seeing that aha moment happen, when a concept finally just clicks for a student. Well, that and all the sweet notes my kids give me at the end of the semester. But it’s really satisfying when a student who has been struggling finally gets it, especially with the little ones who are learning how to read.
The MA program taught me a lot that I’ve been able to use as a teacher. This past semester, I had the chance to learn a lot about linguistics, which really helped my understanding of language structure and acquisition. I also conducted research about after-school education in Asian countries, which included a lot of research on methods and approaches. So while my courses might not be directly related to EFL, I’ve been able to apply the concepts I’ve learned to become a better teacher.
Having traveled so much in your life, have you ever written about your experiences, either through journaling or a more formal process?
My first trip abroad was to Germany in 2012 as an exchange student. When I went to Germany, I took a journal with me because I wanted to remember every detail, from the length of the plane ride to what I did each day. Since then, my journaling process for traveling has grown quite a lot. I still like to write about my experiences, but I’ve also started keeping a travel scrapbook journal. I keep all my ticket stubs, interesting receipts, and even wrappers from unique foods I eat and glue them into the journal. Alongside my mementos, I write about the people I met, food I ate, and any experiences that stood out to me as small moments in time worth remembering.
Sometimes I also travel with my iPad. On these trips, I write for my blog. On the trips where I’ve chosen to disconnect from the internet, my journals serve as great tools for me to produce content later.
Would you be able to tell us a little bit about the blog you write? What topics do you cover and where might readers be able to check it out?
I formally started my blog a few months before I left for Korea, primarily as a way to communicate with friends, family, and people too shy to ask questions about my journey to Korea. Before that, I had posted on the site every few months when inspiration struck. After coming to Korea, I realized there was a huge need for expat content creators in smaller cities, since most bloggers and Youtubers tend to live in places like Seoul and Busan. Living in a smaller city, life is a lot different than what an expat might experience living in the capital city of Seoul. So I decided to keep blogging. It became really motivating once people who weren’t friends and family began reading my content.
While I primarily write about life as an expatriate and traveling, I also like to write about minimalism. I was inspired to a life of minimalism after I had to sell and donate 90% of my possessions. Since then, I made it a point to not own more than I could fit in my two suitcases.
Anyone interested in reading my blog can head to christineinkorea.com!
Christine was also recently awarded a Fulbright in Austria for the United States Teaching Assistant Program! Congratulations to Christine for this exciting honor!
Please tell us a bit about yourself! (BGSU Program affiliation, professional experiences, some personal fun facts, etc.)
I have taught English classes for over 25 years! I taught 10th graders for 15 years in beautiful Hawaii and, more recently, in Oklahoma, where I currently teach community college students full time. I especially enjoy teaching reading and writing for our developmental education program as well as Comp I and II in our prison education program. Our nontraditional students are often the most motivated and passionate ones in their learning, and they inspire me each semester.
During my vacations, I love reading a neglected novel, hiking in the Smoky Mountains, and visiting with a good friend over a decaf latte.
What made you decide to pursue the Certificate for Teaching College Writing program at BGSU?
While the biggest push was a change in the state qualifications to teach Comp I and II, I am always looking for online professional development. I wanted to keep current on research and remain active in my own pursuits, and taking college courses provides me with that structure and accountability I need to stay focused!
Even more so, the program at BGSU was exactly what I was looking for. The courses are focused specifically on teaching writing in composition courses and with the focus on rhetoric, I knew the certificate would expand my knowledge in this field. My English background was solely in literature and I knew I could be doing more as a professor for all of my, but especially struggling, writers. (And it didn’t hurt that the entire program was online and the least-expensive I found!)
During your time studying for the Certificate for Teaching College Writing, what was your favorite course? What made it so special?
I cannot stress enough how valuable the entire program was. Every class brought a balance of theory and practice to my professional world. In terms of radically changing the way I evaluate writing, the Teaching Grammar in Writing course was the impetus that transformed all that I do. But every course after that built on those ideas and expanded my understanding of, for example, multimodality, service-learning, and technical writing, just to name a few. My perspective as a writing instructor has been broadened as well as my own practice as a writer.
Another amazing moment came at the 4C’s Conference a little over a year ago. I was walking down the street in Kansas City, MO, when I heard my name. I turned around and there was my current instructor for a BGSU course! She just happened to be coming out of her hotel and saw me pass by the window on the way to my hotel down the block. She had required us to make introduction videos of ourselves--something I was at first terrified about—and she actually recognized me from that course! We had never met, and although I had told her I was attending and we had exchanged numbers so we could meet, it was the night before the conference and we had not tried to connect yet. That fortuitous encounter spoke volumes about the quality professors at BGSU, the importance of technology in online courses (I never complained about videos again!), and the understanding that fully online instruction can be every bit as personal as face-to-face.
Based on your educational and professional experiences, what differences do you see (if any) between teaching college writing and other levels?
Having taught 7th graders all the way to graduate students, I think the commonalities outweigh the differences in many aspects. Students, at any level, need opportunities to think and write critically about topics that are important to them, and they need to write for real-world situations and broader audiences than simply the teacher. They also need encouragers--people to believe in their abilities along the way--and they need to be reminded that they can improve their writing, no matter where they are at, that it is a process that requires patience and practice. I have seen so many students, especially more recently in my developmental English classes, who at least once in their previous education received a graded paper, one in which they had poured out their best, only to face a sea of red (or green or purple), communicating to them that they were not, nor ever would be, good at writing. All writers, no matter how sophisticated their thinking, vocabulary or syntax may be, desire authentic contexts and audiences, as well as opportunities to improve their skills in a nonjudgmental environment.
As you have continued to learn about teaching writing, what have you learned about yourself as a writer and your writing process? What insight does that offer into your approach to teaching?
I am learning that I have so much more to learn! As technology and ways of communication continue to change and expand, I need to be mindful and willing to change my perspective and practices along with them. Being more open-minded to how students communicate (both their words and medium) encourages me to be both a learner and a teacher in the classroom.
Practically speaking, I need to be sure I am exposing my students to the technological world of communication and giving them opportunities to write for situations they will encounter in their futures. For example, assigning only literary analysis papers or even simply expository essays, no longer dominate my classroom practices. Multimodal assignments, like website pages and business reports, and a range of others, have become part of my course design.
And perhaps the biggest takeaway for me has been the need for metacognitive reflection on the part of the writer. I can mark all the incorrect grammar I find on student papers, and none of that time and effort makes a dent in the process like having students self-reflect on their own progress and create a concrete plan to improve it.
These are truly just a few ways that the BGSU English Writing Certificate has influenced me as both a teacher and a writer, and I will always be grateful for the opportunity to study under some of the most caring professors I have ever encountered.
Please 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. :)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
[A headshot image of Dr. Chad Iwertz Duffy. Chad smiling inside Yayoi Kusama’s art installation The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, a mirrored room that infinitely reflects and repeats hundreds of twinkle lights of many colors. Because the room is mirrored on all sides, we can also see distorted images of Chad repeated, as well as distorted reflections of his partner, Lorene, who is taking this picture.]
Please tell us a bit about yourself!
I joined the faculty at BGSU in 2019 and have been teaching courses in the Department of English online graduate program and rhetoric and writing studies PhD program since that time. Prior to BGSU, I’ve also taught at Ohio State University and Oregon State University—so I’m two-thirds of the way toward OSU bingo!
My background is in rhetoric and composition, digital media studies, and disability studies, and I’m always eager to pursue research and teaching opportunities at the intersections of these fields. Most recently, this was in co-directing (with Amílcar Challú in the Department of History) the National Endowment for the Humanities grant Toward a Pedagogy from Crisis, which researched and supported adaptive and accessible teaching and learning in the humanities at BGSU during the Coronavirus pandemic.
I’m also a proud “procrastibaker,” someone who finds joy in spending perhaps too much time baking. On that front—I’m excited to share that this month my pandemic-born sourdough starter (affectionately named Waldough) will be turning 1!
What courses do you teach online?
This feels like a complex question to answer in the midst of the pandemic! We’re all teaching everything online now, I guess! But truly, I have realized—since what feels like will be called the online education revolution of 2020, all my courses have a lot of elements of online education in them.
But as to the courses I teach that have been designed to be taught specifically and fully online, I’ve taught first-year and second-year composition online, and I’ve had the experience of co-teaching a MOOC (massive open online course) in public composition with 7 other instructors when I was finishing my PhD. That class was incredible—especially those moments when we had to constantly reconfigure how to best teach to 20,000 students!!
Now at BG, I regularly teach 6200 (The Teaching of Writing) and have also taught a 6800 (Seminar in English Studies) on online writing instruction, which I hope to teach again in the near future.
What are some of the benefits you see in online education?
The potential for flexibility, for sure. There is still a sense of newness with online education, I think, even though it has existed in various forms for decades. I think a lot of that means we’re building classes that have been taught traditionally in person from the ground up. We are starting from scratch, so let’s do it right and strive to build from a place of unwavering antiracism, radical accessibility, and a sense of openness to how teaching is always a continual act of revision.
I also believe there needs to be a place for failure in online teaching and learning. It should be okay in any classroom, online or otherwise, to make mistakes as a student, or even as an instructor really! It’s hard to do that when the primary way of communicating is through writing, and it can a lot more effort, especially when everything you communicate is published and archived to Canvas. So online education, especially in communities like those at BGSU, can be experimental and offer unique learning opportunities that face-to-face classes can’t.
Does your teaching philosophy change whether you are teaching in person or online?
I love this question so much, and I want to say that my philosophy and approach to pedagogy are the same whether I’m teaching online or not. But if I’m being honest, I think that for me my teaching does change across modalities in at least in one big area—my approach to creating community in my classes.
Creating a community of writers in my classes is so important because a lot of my teaching, of graduate courses especially, embraces collaboration and myriad professional contexts. So that matters and is completely different when teaching online. For a long while, I had mainly translated this to mean I should embrace my goof, and the affordances of multimodal writing and social media culture, to lower the stakes for posting to discussion boards. But that doesn’t always fit the context of the class I’m teaching all the time, so I’m now experimenting with collaborative, group reading, which I know we’ll talk more about here in a bit, so I’ll just leave you hanging with that for now.
What is your teaching style like for online learning? Or what pedagogies have you adapted?
I embrace Borgman and McArdle’s “PARS framework” in my online teaching—that is, I work to model learning that is personal, accessible, responsive, and strategic in my classes. Recently, that has looked like experimenting with collaborative small group reading in my online classes where students will take turns leading discussion on readings in groups that they have collaboratively read with peers before discussion. It’s a work in progress, but I like how this set of activities can get students thinking strategically about their reading experiences, create opportunities for students to network and collaborate together while assuming leadership roles in class, and center personal and accessible learning in the tasks that we do in class.
I’m also finding that in the online classroom I want to offer a mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning. I want to start trying out having one, optional, synchronous session early on in the semester where we all just basically play corny ice breaker games to see what affect that has on building community throughout the course. Students can expect to be peer reviewing and discussing their work with each other a lot in any of the classes I teach—in addition to receiving the feedback that I offer, of course—so I have been exploring ways that students can develop meaningful relationships with each other and create trust in our group as we move in and out of giving and receiving feedback on our writing throughout the semester.
What is the best advice you could give future teachers?
Don’t forget that in an online course, your professor is just one of your resources for guidance and support—you also have a number of peers in class who are experts in what they do as well, and anything you can do to build professional relationships with your peers will become a great asset both in the classroom environment and after your time in coursework as well.
Network with each other and try as best as you can to get to know each other in your classes. You never know when a connection you make with a peer in your class will turn into a professional collaboration or opportunity in the future—this is yet another reason I feel building community is so important in the classes I teach.