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Biography for Eric P. Hibbison, Professor of English 
J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College (1973-- )
(Photo of me in class is here.)

[Click on the highlighted words and phrases in the narrative below for anecdotes and other biographical information. Back links are provided to return to your place in reading this bio.] 

Although I earned certification to teach in high school in Colorado(and did student teaching at North High School in 1969), I completed a training program at the University of Arizona for teaching in community colleges. After completing an M.A. in Literature in 1971 and an M. Ed. in the Teaching of Reading in 1972, I worked two years in Auburn, New York, before coming to the one-year-old J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College. In 1981-82, on a year's leave, I moved to Indiana, Pennsylvania, to take courses for a Ph. D. in Rhetoric and Linguistics, which I completed in 1990 with a 309-page dissertation, Prompting Inferences: Two Ways to Write College Multiple-Choice Comprehension Questions for a Complete Article. 

So I've been teaching college since 1971 (at Reynolds since 1973), and I plan to continue until retirement in 2013. The Southeastern Conference on English in the Two-Year College (SCETC) gave me the Gregory Cowan Memorial Award in 1993 for excellence in instruction, development of instructional materials, leadership and participation in English activities (including presentations at conferences, publications, and grants). 

In the 1970s, I pioneered sponsorship of the college's student newspaper. In the 1980s, I worked with a textbook publisher as a consulting editor on several developmental writing textbooks, completing over 300 pre-publication reviews of prospectuses and manuscripts. The Virginia Community College System (VCCS) gave me a few awards for course design. Instructional innovations I used included a simulated business office, desktop publishing of ENG 01 students' work written and illustrated for elementary school students in Florida and Nevada, media and staging analysis of dramas in the introduction to literature course (ENG 112), studies of the World War I era as background for Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms, and on-campus development for two commercially produced televised composition courses ENG 111-95A and ENG 112-95A). 

In the 1990s, I have headed and written a college-wide newsletter for The TEACHING NETWORK, an informal faculty development initiative that included regular meetings on such issues as instructional practices, small-group learning, classroom assessment, and instructional uses of technology, especially computers. I also wrote a manual on teaching for JSRCC. 

Currently, I have been receiving grants from the VCCS for developing multimedia lessons out of my existing ENG 112 course; beta-testing of these lessons began in 1995 and development should continue for a few years. I regularly teach writing courses--ENG 01 and 112

The following footnotes are linked to the corresponding underlined words in the hyperlinked biography above.  Rather than lead you to separate pages, the links above simply pop down to anecdotes and explanations below.  At the end of each note below, there is "return" link so you can click to go back to your reading.

COLORADO: My dad, who worked for Kinney Shoes for 44 years, graciously moved his district manager's office and the family from Omaha, Nebraska, where I was born in In the city where I was raised, I could see the Rockies in the west.1948, to Denver, Colorado, mostly for my health. One of our family photos shows us standing at the sign marking the Colorado border--me with cowboy hat, cap guns, and belt, with sunken, asthmatic eyes. Although the asthma gradually disappeared in the more arid Denver climate, it was pronounced enough to classify me 1-Y in the Vietnam draft era. Since my allergies resurfaced after a few years on the East Coast, it's probably just as well that I didn't get drafted to serve in that humid climate. Picture a platoon on night patrol, stealthily approaching an enemy contingent. Suddenly, the sound of wheezing and coughing fills the jungle air. It might have been a very short tour. Still, I never had to face the moral dilemma of being forced to serve. On the other hand, I also never had to face the consequences of rushing into a marriage just before the marriage deferment ended. Funny thing, some Congressional aide sets a date for such a deferment to end, it gets into a bill and passed, becomes law--and lives are forever altered. Maybe doctors aren't the only group who should take an oath to "do no harm." 

I guess I still use Death of a Salesman in my introduction to literature course, partly because of my father's experience. He did get his "New York job," but it only lasted a year because the family hated the East Coast lifestyle. Even though we lived in a split level house about 12 miles west of Newark, New Jersey, where the deer from the neighboring game preserve used to come across the road and eat the blooms off the neighborhood flowers, the dismal, rainy climate and the jaded sophistication (it seemed to our naive midwestern mentalities) of our schoolmates and some of our neighbors sent us fleeing back to Denver within a year. 

When we moved to Denver in 1953, we could see the mountains from our kitchen picture window; when I left in 1969, I couldn't even see the downtown skyline from I-70 because of the thick smog in the industrial section, which used to blanket the valley between Denver and the mountains and then ooze north nearly to Cheyenne, Wyoming, 120 miles away. Back to "Colorado" in text.

NORTH HIGH SCHOOL: My teaching training started with tutoring a 15-year-old non-reader. This is probably where I began to form the impression that real teaching is one-to-one. One day, after we had built up some trust, I couldn't get my car started, so I called AAA. After the mechanic popped the hood, he looked at me like I was playing a practical joke on him. Since I kept a straight face, he figured (correctly) that I was just one of those know-it-all college kids who didn't know a distributor from a disk brake. Some joker had simply disconnected my distributor wires from the spark plugs; all I would have had to do was to snap them back into place--if I had opened the hood. We often learn things the hard way, don't we. 

By the time I got to North High, my charge was feeling neglected and rejected; after I explained what had happened, he gave me back a few points, but my stock was still down and never quite got back as high again. I see the same thing happen with students in my classes every semester, but I figure I break even or perhaps stay ahead if most of them pass the class and feel like they've learned something or change the way they view a movie, listen to a song, or even watch a TV show. Back to "North H.S." in text 

EPDA training: Under the Educational Professions Development Act (EPDA), I took a 45-credit master's program (the usual is 30 credits) that included 30 credits in literature, plus assorted courses in teaching composition, educational anthropology, and psychology. Two excursions resulting from the ed. anthro. course were tutoring at the Indian middle school students on a reservation near Tucson and a side-trip to the Lucky Dollar Bar where I saw and met some of the local adults, including one construction worker who helped me realize that "education" takes various forms (although I sort of knew this from working in a shoe store during high school and college). Back to "training" in text 

ARIZONA: After attending an all-male college of 800 students, moving to Arizona on aua.jpg (13078 bytes) fellowship ($2500 a year for two years) was a culture shock! I lived in a dorm the first year, meeting a lot of people from New York, including "Lon Gisland." The second year, my best friend from college and the guy who was president of the local fraternity chapter at Regis after I was, roomed with me a block from the campus main gate. We got tear-gassed during the anti-war protests near the university. This roommate had a strict routine for studying in law school--up at 8 am for class, study at the law library until 10 pm, have a beer and socialize, but be in bed by midnight. He also had an alcoholic dad that he visited on weekends, so I learned a new meaning for "the child is father to the man." Back to "Arizona" in text 

AUBURN, NEW YORK: My first student at Auburn Community College (now Cayuga County Community College) in 1971 was named Dave Ashworth. The first day when I got to the room, dressed for recess in jeans and tennies, he was sitting alone in the back of the room, so I joined him there. We were about the same age, so I acted like a student, wondered about the course and teacher, learned that Dave was a Vietnam Vet. When it was time for class to start and the other students had filed in, I walked up to the front of the room and started in. Dave was surprised but managed to take it in stride. Years later, reflecting on it, I realized that was sort of a mean thing to do, but I doubt if he resented it since he stayed the course and participated readily. At the time I realized that while he was in the army I had been at graduate school establishing my career, having avoided the army due to asthma. Back to "Auburn" in text 
  • CCC library Here's a link to the community college where I first taught, which maintains the Web site for Cayuga County in upstate New York on the Excite City.Net---Cayuga Community College 
ONE-YEAR-OLD: I interviewed in the Seaboard Building (now the Travellers, I think) before the RMA was built right next to it. I started teaching that summer, May, 1973--a developmental reading course in a room at Hermitage High School. That fall we opened in a building at Foushee and Franklin that had been a Sydnor-Hundley furniture store. Morris Carson played mariachi music in his Spanish lab study carrel square while I gave my reading students a standardized pre-test in my developmental reading and writing lab, also a square of study carrels. My desk and the financial aid office composed the rest of the lst floor--except for the provost's and continuing education offices in the display windows. Back to "one-year-old JSRCC"  IUP: On half-pay, a tuition waiver fellowship, a small stipend, a college loan, and a bunch of new credit cards I rented a house about a half mile from campus.  I finished the 30 credits of course work and returned to Richmond. I learned to use a word processor, printing my dissertation in A-208 (supplying one ink cartridge when I ran out in the middle of printing my final draft). Back to "IUP" in text  1973: Picture, if you will, the student commons in Building A of PRC (our student cafe on the first floor is open to the second-floor ceiling and includes a balcony all around with more tables) with no tile on the floor. A crew of teachers, secretaries, and Buildings and Grounds staff are uncrating teachers' desks for the classrooms and tossing the cartons into "the Pit." Others are wiping down the students' desks in classrooms that have been brought from the ABC warehouse down by the Diamond, where they were stored (thanks to the state Alcoholic Beverage Control [ABC] Board). All of this "pitching in" was needed to get the only building at PRC (then) ready to open by the new deadline--a week after classes were supposed to begin. Ah, those pioneering "good old days"! Back to "1973" in text 

GREG COWAN AWARD: This award was named for a popular and promising teacher and researcher who was active in the Southeastern Conference on English in the Two-Year College (SCETC). When he died young, members of the organization sponsored this award, which has been given since the early '80s. Just the process of applying is a reward in itself because up to 10 colleagues write letters of endorsement. The winner gets to keep a cumulative trophy for a year and pewter plaque permanently. Back to "Cowan Award" in text 

PRESENTATIONS: I've given about a dozen presentations on spelling (observational research results from the 1970s at JSRCC), writing, literature, distance education, and multimedia. Most of these were at statewide or local meetings of two-year college English teachers, but the 1974 NCTE presentation on spelling was in New Orleans (I had a dozen oysters for my Thanksgiving dinner and got stiffed when a guy ordered Hurricanes for 3 tables of us conventioneers and left before the bill came!) Back to "presentations" in the text 

PUBLICATIONS: Over a dozen of my articles on spelling, writing, or reading teaching have appeared in statewide or regional journals for English teachers, including a couple of articles derived from my dissertation. (Read on for books.) Back to "publications" in the text 

GRANTS: The first was the biggest, but I didn't write it--part of a federal Title III grant (for improving colleges). From comparing 3 ways of teaching, while controlling for time of course and teacher by each of 3 faculty teaching at various times, we found that editing practice with lessons on writing improved writing in ENG 101 better than sentence combining and better than trying to connect with the "real world" in our writing assignments. "Underage Driver," which I use for editing practice when teaching English 01, is one of about 25 lessons written for this experiment. Other grants have all been from the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) or the college for time off to develop variations of courses--to implement the 112 telecourse and (currently) to develop an online version of ENG 112 with four other English teachers in Virginia. Back to "grants" in the text 

CONSULTING EDITOR: The company has published 8 textbooks on spelling and basic writing for which I was consulting editor. That company also published my own textbook, a developmental handbook, in 1984--after 5 revisions (without a word processor). It's out of print now, but doing a textbook taught me a lot about writing processes, publishing practices, and the mass market. Back to "Consulting Editor" in the text 

FLORIDA: One of my nieces used to teach fifth grade in a Florida school, but now she teaches special education and has to few students for an exchange between equal numbers of students. A few of her fifth-grade students were more sophisticated as writers than a few of my basic writers, which could be either intimidating or inspiring, depending on the college student, so I had to be careful about the pairings, although I tried to let my students self-select the letters they wanted to read and answer. Back to "Florida" in text 

  • palms.gif (17853 bytes) Here's a link to the town, Sarasota, Florida.
  • Here's a link to one of the more interesting features in Sarasota, The Ringling Museum. The art collection was amassed and housed by the circus producer.
NEVADA: My best friend used to teach fourth grade in a Nevada school, but she now teaches as a resource teacher, making this project impractical. At first, we tried letters back and forth and had students send "a Virginia thing" or "a Nevada thing." Students exchanged postcards, leaves vs. sand or cactus needles, photos; one of my students sent a musket ball. A few students even wrote after my course was over. 

After a few semesters, we switched from narrative to exposition, and roles changed. Instead of writing as equals, my students wrote illustrated reports and her pupils decided which ones they liked best and why--giving revising advice, praise, or other helpful feedback to each of my students. My students learned from this, 

  • how to pick a topic to interest a specific readership, considering age, location, education
  • when to simplify vocabulary (a first for these basic writers!)
  • how to match illustrations with text by in-text references--and how to focus readers' attention on the particulars of the illustration
  • how to merge words and illustrations in an attractive layout
  • when to simplify sentence structure: since they were writing about topics they knew well, their sentences structures were sometimes too long or complex for their fourth-grade readers!
Back to "Nevada" in the text 

DRAMAS: So far I've had students study and write about the camera work, light vs. shadow, costuming and colors, props as symbols, actors' positions (blocking) and gestures, and background music for Mel Gibson's HAMLET, Dustin Hoffman's DEATH OF A SALESMAN, plus THE LION IN WINTER, A RAISIN IN THE SUN, and A FAREWELL TO ARMS. I used CAMELOT for a while--until a couple of guys said out loud at Franco Nero during one of the out-of-class viewings, "Oh, no! Don't sing!" I realized that the music broke their "willing suspension of disbelief." Back to "dramas" in the text 

WWI: This project went on for 8 years. The resources found by one class I would keep for classes to use in later semesters. The best papers using those photocopies of newspapers or a 1911 encyclopedia or chapters from a medical history text became resources themselves for later students. One of the most lavishly illustrated and complex was an analysis of the Milan opera house mentioned in the novel. Other information involved the available know-how for birth control and childbirth, lack of blood transfusions for treating hemorrhaging, and the terrain of northern Italy, the Abruzzi, and southern Switzerland. One of my pipe dreams is that maybe someday I'll get a Guggenheim grant to go to Italy with a digitizing camera and use all this research to make a definitive study guide on CD-ROM for A FAREWELL TO ARMS. Back to "World War I era" in the text 

TV: No, my face isn't on the TV. We bought courses from Texas and Virginia companies that were made for educational or public television stations and colleges to use. (See the notes for 111 and 112.) Back to "televised" in the text 

ENG 111: Dallas County Community College District produces THE WRITER'S EXCHANGE, a telecourse for ENG 111. It shows interviews with renowned teachers and researchers on rhetoric and writing, as well as students. It also shows cases, e.g. a Texas journalist at work, a grant writer, and other writing situations from real life. Students write essays from the assignments I select out of those offered in the course texts, and they may revise for a higher grade if they wish. Now that I've moved on to online courses, Bill Ziegler (who also went to IUP) has taken over this telecourse. Back to "English 111" in the text 

ENG 112: Annenberg/CPB produces LITERARY VISIONS, which dramatizes some of the poems, and pieces of some of the short stories and plays assigned as course reading. These 30-minute lessons also include interviews and at-work profiles of living poets and fiction writers, dramatists, directors, and others involved in producing plays. The Roberts and Jacobs textbook supplies all of the readings, plus all of the coaching on writing about literature. Students write essays assigned from the selections provided in the course STUDY GUIDE, hopefully looking at the sample essays in the course text. They may revise for a higher grade if they wish--and time permits. 

Margaret Stem took over this telecourse for Spring, 1999. Back to "English 112" in the text 

NEWSLETTER: Samples are in binders collected for THE TEACHING NETWORK at the campus libraries' main desk (reserve). This newsletter lasted from 1992-1995; I'd like to think that it stimulated some thinking about teaching, if not actual talk about teaching. My goal at the time was to generate via the newsletter and THE TEACHING NETWORK more discussion about teaching on campus than there was talk about administrative concerns. The advance of technology on campus has redirected my energies, my committee assignments, and also has increased faculty time spent learning and considering course and lesson design. Just putting faculty in the position of learners has value--especially when they find themselves sitting at a computer that forces learning by doing and trial and error. Back to "newsletter" in text 

CURRENT PROJECTS: In Spring, 1996, I was drafted to set up a campus Teaching, Learning, and Technology Roundtable (TLTR). The aim of this national movement is to ease the transition of college teachers into the Information Age. Their method is to put innovative teachers with innovative computer users and the computer support staff to anticipate upcoming waves of equipment and brace the faculty for impact. This is a worthy project, but it will certainly include THE TEACHING NETWORK's activities. 

After this unfunded mandate fizzled out for various logistical, organizational, and personnel reasons, I took on other projects to accomplish similar goals for 1998-1999. 

  • Project Director for Litonline: This VCCS courseware Introduction to Literature has its own server at the college as of Sept. '98.  It still needs some heavy-duty tweaking to regularize design, but the content is solid.  The forums need constant attention for weeding out empty and multiple submissions, as well as misplaced ones.
  • Technology Faculty in Residence: The online workshops I've developed don't preclude a printed manual, but they do go beyond introductions to single software by showing academic applications of the software.
  • Chair, Midcentral Region, VCCS Centers for Teaching Excellence: After taking over this added initiative at mid-year,  the first initiatives dealt with co-sponsoring the 5th Annual Teaching and Learning Conference in Ashland, KY, and sponsoring a telecourse in the series " "I Taught It, But They Didn't Learn It."
Back to "currently" in text 

Try out Excite's City.Net to look for information about your own cities: City.Net! 

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