[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.|
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 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.
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 a 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
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
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,
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.
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