Curriculum Vitae

Monday, June 20, 2011

Moving on

The cliché feast or famine comes to mind as I write this post.  I have been interviewing for full-time English faculty positions throughout this past year and recently received the perfect offer.  Then I received a second perfect offer.  Both positions are in the state where I have lived most of my life, Virginia, but are far enough from my current home that we (husband, sons, dog) have to move.

As a result of my good fortune in finding my dream job in a slim market, we have just over six weeks to sell our current house, buy a new house, get acclimated to a new neighborhood, begin middle school (son # 1), begin 4th grade (son # 2), and find the perfect teaching position (husband). This may account for why my shoulders are tensed up to my ears.

It could also be this: John and I have been on a non-stop attack of unfinished projects at our house to prepare it for the market.  We had a list of projects to complete this summer, but have had to dispel previous notions of working all summer long to complete our work.  The new deadline is...tomorrow. Within the past few weeks we have restored front and back porch floors, painted, plastered, hung drywall, weeded, and de-cluttered to make the house look like the one we wished we lived in (instead of the one that is an artistic disaster overflowing with Lego and Star Wars creations).

Anyone who knows us knows that we have spent most of our free time over the past five years restoring this house.  It has been a lot of fun designing and building spaces that honor the architectural beauty of our 115 year old folk Victorian with all of the modern conveniences that us city-folk from Northern Virginia expect.

Here are the pictures from the current listing. I hope you like them.

Here are some pictures of projects along the way. I hope you are entertained by them.
Be grateful when things go your way. Be patient when they do not.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


As I write at a local coffee shop, I celebrate this calm time of year with a cuppa Earl face-to-face classes have ended, and my Online classes are only getting started.  Unlike previous years when my Online classes were on a staggered schedule, this year both Online classes are on the same exact schedule. This simple piece of scheduling luck is making classroom organization a breeze, as I have finally taken the time to create a master spreadsheet gradebook to organize student contact and feedback.  In the past, I kept track of grades in the proprietary database provided by my school and used a paper, spiral-bound gradebook for my feedback notes.  This made grading a cumbersome project with all of my feedback to students generated and distributed electronically, but all of my notes scribbled in a separate location. 

I knew this was an inefficient process; however, I began my teaching career with a paper gradebook and cautionary tales from my colleagues about the unreliability of electronic storage.  Plus, it felt strange to work without the tactile presence of my notes.  I was reluctant to streamline my grading process because I was too used to the way I had always worked.  Now, however, I can accept that letting go of the old way of thinking has made my life easier.

I have been paperless for two weeks, so far, and it has gone swimmingly!  I have my files backed up on an external hard drive in case my laptop spontaneously combusts, so I even have a Plan B in place.  It is funny that I often use technology in the classroom, but I have been slow to digitize the papers I use behind the scenes.  If my students must conform to technological advancements, such as submitting essays through the SafeAssign program and writing journals on BlackBoard discussion boards, why shouldn't I? Change can be scary, but it does not have to be that way.  I think my experience will help me more easily connect with older students who are unsure of their ability to use electronic means, especially when they compare their technological skills to their younger classmates.  I can better reassure technophobic students, no matter what age,  that habits are difficult to break but worth the effort.

What habits do you have that you would be better off breaking?  Maybe today you can take the first step to freedom! Good luck.

Friday, May 6, 2011


As another semester draws to a close, I realize how lucky I am to be a community college teacher.  I feel blessed that I get to forge relationships with remarkable adults over a sixteen-week period and I can help them progress from various stages of writing (dis)comfort to polished, prepared writers for their next semester.  The last official class before exams is a significant presentation day, as students deliver interactive, multimedia presentations about their research projects, and it is a brief moment of calm before I get a deluge of research essays to grade (hooray!!). 

For my students' research projects (which includes extensive research, drafting, revising, and a culminating class presentation) I encourage them to choose topics that are meaningful to them-- meaningful because of a personal connection or a professional responsibility.  This semester was no different, as students discussed policies relevant to their professions and issues that resonated in their hearts.  The best part of these presentations, however, was the visible engagement my students have with each other during and after each presentation.  They asked thoughtful questions,  ("I never thought about that; what should I do?" "Then what happened?") and they show their nervous classmates that they really care about the work they did, and that they genuinely want their classmates to be successful.  They remind each other that they are in the same learning community and are bound by shared learning experiences in our classroom and on campus.

One of my favorite times as a teacher is when I learn from my students-- either by gaining a better understanding of an issue based on their research or on the intangible appreciation I have for humanity when I see my class come together for one last communal moment.  While I am quick to praise them for their efforts and insights, they will never truly know how much they enrich my life. 

This week I am taking a drive back home.  I hope the road leads me where I want to go.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Teaching Philosophy

I have been thinking a lot about my teaching philosophy lately.  What does it mean to have a teaching philosophy? Will writing down my philosophy make me a better teacher?  Shouldn't I use my time to grade essays, instead?  These questions reflected the fact that I did not see what was important about articulating a teaching philosophy or mission and committing it to paper.  I based my value as a teacher on the magical moments (and less-than-magical moments) that happened in the classroom and whether my students were satisfied with their progress (and my ability to help get them there) at the end of the semester.  I couldn't put my finger on my teaching philosophy; it simply was.  I see the usefulness of a teaching philopophy with new eyes, so I am giving it a try. 

Now that I am in the interviewing process for community college faculty positions across the state of Virginia, I understand why I need to have a clear and concise philosophy on paper and in mind: Members of a faculty search committee do not have the time to observe lively and engaging discussions in my real classes, nor do they have the time to listen to me blather on about why I love teaching, and why I consider teaching at a community college my ideal career.  Taking PhD-level courses also has made me write more now than I have in the past five years, so the words come to me more easily and I am pleased with myself for moving forward.  So here is my teaching philosophy below.  I have also posted this on my website I would love to read or listen to any feedback that you may have.  This teaching statement is unfinished, as my writing is always a work in progress.

As a teacher, my primary goal is for students to have stronger analytical skills and confidence to successfully pursue their academic, professional, and personal goals when we part for the last time than when we first met.  This immense task is one that I have embraced while teaching more than 100 post-secondary credit hours, and one that I continue to embrace by incorporating pedagogical training and reflecting on successful and unsuccessful classroom experiences.
While my enthusiasm for teaching traditional and non-traditional students has been unwavering, my methods have evolved as I have gained a better understanding and appreciation for the diverse backgrounds of students in any one class and how that diversity can be a catalyst for dynamic and engaging discussions, projects, and lectures.  As an underlying celebration of diversity as an academic catalyst, I instill in students the idea that we are a community of learners.  In a positive learning community, each student is inspired to recognize his or her role in promoting the success of the overall class by actively participating in discussions, helping peers in cooperative learning environments, and by embracing challenges toward individual achievement. My students are engaged in the learning process and are successful as a result.  In addition, I set clear expectations and evaluation guidelines for student conduct and performance so that all students know how they are expected to meet the goals set before them.
As an undergraduate and graduate student, I had the benefit of learning from outstanding instructors who were simultaneously encouraging and challenging; I model those instructors when I mentor students in instructor and advisor capacities.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Fine Arts Extravaganza

I have not written a post here for a while, as I have been working on a big project that will come to fruition later this month.  The project is called the Fine Arts Extravaganza, and it is an evening of art auctions, musical and dramatic performances, and family-friendly activities that will be held at Blue Ridge Community College on Friday, April 29th at 7:00 in the evening.  The evening is a benefit to create scholarship opportunities so that underprivileged children can attend BRCC's educational summer program called Learning Can Be Fun.  (Learning Can Be Fun is an amazing program that my sons attend every summer with great joy.)

I am so happy to see that this project, which started as a small idea I had this fall, has really caught on.  I have had the privilege of working with an enthusiastic committee of dedicated staff members and students who are looking forward to helping on April 29th.  

As the evening will be a lot of fun for everyone, I encourage any local readers to bring their families to the Fine Arts Extravaganza.  Furthermore, I encourage you to share your ideas with others.  You may be pleasantly surprised by how a simple idea can blossom into something even better than you could have imagined.  

Good luck.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


I hold office hours so students can meet with me if they have questions or concerns about class or want help with writing in other courses.  I feel a sense of accomplishment when I help a student resolve a writing problem and he or she leaves the room with the relief that the issue is over.  What happens when a student comes to me with a problem much greater than something I can address in my small workspace?  I worry about this.  I have faced this.

I had a student make a appointment to see me so that I could show her how to post assignments to the course's online site, and how to edit documents on her laptop.  When she came in, a flood of emotions poured out of her and it was obvious that she had much larger concerns than what she had initially come to address.  I listened, we talked, and then I picked up the phone.  I called our school's counseling department to see what resources they could offer someone I was not equipped to help. As she made an appointment with a counselor, I looked up online resources that our school posts for reference.  I handed her a few printed pages from a community resources guide and offered final words of comfort before she left. 

After she left, I felt sick with worry; however, two days later, the same student returned and looked radiant in her relief.  She was on a path to help, and she wanted to let me know that she was okay.

I don't think I did anything spectacular to help her; I simply listened and recognized that her need was greater than what I could address.  I am thankful that our school's counseling department is willing to meet with students to give them resources that are non-academic in nature.  If you are in a helping profession, like I am as an instructor, please listen to people around you who need help. Most importantly, be honest with yourself and others about what assistance you can provide. Finally, take the time to find the proper services if you can. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Webpage Launch

Well, exciting things have been happening this past week!  I wrote my first paper for my English class, and was thrown back in time in the position of a student writing an English paper.  I had a lot of fun researching my topic on sophistic techniques and how to apply techniques to a current college classroom.  It is fine if you are not excited about writing English papers, as long as you get how jazzed I am about it.

Additionally, I have put the finishing touches on my webpage: Check it out!  I used a freeware program called Seamonkey and created a space on the Internet. I am proud of myself for tackling a technological project that was unfamiliar and sure to produce frustration. If you have any suggestions for my page, please send them my way. Good luck tackling unfamiliar projects.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


My best friend and I entertained each other by telling impromptu stories when we were kids.  I remember with a mix of nostalgia and curiosity the numerous afternoons we spent crafting stories that starred grown-up versions of ourselves in surreal situations.  It was an exciting challenge to keep the story going, as she and I alternated five-minute turns until we lost interest or it was time for us to part ways. I loved the challenge of building on story threads that Monica set-up and adding interesting twists for her to build on by the end of my five minutes.  Those afternoons provided a freeing and imaginative way to cap days that were otherwise dedicated to academic pursuits over which we had little autonomy. 

I see a similar gift for storytelling in my eleven-year-old son who writes about fantastic worlds that he's created for his sprawling Lego designs and various action figures.  He usually records story ideas on scattered pages that float around the house until he tucks them away in shoeboxes on his bookcase.  I recently bought him a leather-bound journal so he can record his ideas with greater organization and pride.  He keeps this journal close at hand so he can readily jot down inspiring thoughts and share them with me. I can’t wait to see how his stories develop.  I am sure we will have even more to talk about; we may even take turns.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


This semester, I have excitingly added student to my dance card by returning to the classroom through ODU's distance learning program. In November, I signed up for a class about classical rhetoric and theory building as a non-degree seeking student, and as January emerged, my anticipation for returning to the classroom on the other side of the desk swelled.  I marked my first day on the calendar, and knew that this day would be amazing...not too much pressure, right?  What could possibly go wrong? (It's a terrible cliché, I know, but I really set myself up for it.)

Well, it turns out that a lot can go wrong; the technology gods failed to smile upon me as numerous technical difficulties locked me out of the class.  The hours that John and I spent with tech support moved forward with no regard to my scheduled obligation, and I typed, clicked, and watched frustratingly as no suggestion worked.  I sat in agony as the class’ start time approached and passed. But it's okay; this experience is a lesson in patience.  I was forced to accept that my anxiety didn’t solve any problems, and that patience was needed to cope with mounting frustrations that were beyond my control.  While I never want to suffer the disappointment of missing class, I am pleased to acknowledge that I survived a night of everything going wrong.

This week, I welcomed two new groups of students who also had their first days of class. I have a better understanding of how many of them must feel as they anticipate this new semester.  I suggest that you take on the role of student for the lessons that you can learn inside and outside the classroom.  It is a worthwhile endeavor, even when glitches get in the way.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Pursuit of Practice

As a community college English teacher, I require that my students write—a lot.  I nurture a classroom culture that encourages each student to record his or her thoughts for future assignments or for the simple act of waking up the brain.  As a concerned and reflective teacher, I am bothered by the fact that I don’t write nearly as much as I did in years past, especially when I was a college student.  I fear being hypocritical for not following the writing advice that I give in the classroom: write often; I also fear that my writing skills have weakened from a lack of use.  How can I improve as a writing teacher if I don’t write? It is time for me to follow the advice that I give my students, so I have decided to write.  I have started this blog to track my pursuit of writing practice.  I don’t have any hard-set guidelines for my writing on this blog, but I hope to use this space to reflect on teaching, brainstorm for PhD research, and wake up my brain.  If you choose to follow this blog, I hope my efforts inspire you to the pursuit of practice, no matter your craft or medium.