Posts filed under Teacher

Hannah Benefield: Academic Success Coordinator

Name: Hannah Benefield

Age: 24

College & Majors/Minors: BA Interdisciplinary Studies (Minor in English), MA English and Creative Writing

Current Location: Lakeland, FL

Current Form of Employment: Full-time Academic Success Coordinator at Southeastern University

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I work at Southeastern University as an Academic Success Coordinator for ACE, the learning center. In my role, I wear many hats: I hire, train, and manage the tutors for the learning center, create learning resources for our students, teach success workshops, tutor writing sessions, and function as the success coach for the wrestling team. I love every part of it!

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

When I was a few months away from graduation, I began searching for open positions at my university. I knew I loved academia and wanted to stay at Southeastern. I applied to be the Administrative Coordinator for the dean of Behavioral and Social Sciences and I got the job! I started less than a month after graduation. Even though I worked in a totally different department than my background, I learned so much about what the role of “professor” really looks like and developed administrative skills that made it possible for me to take on my current position.

I actually worked at ACE as a writing tutor in my undergrad! I still had a relationship with the Academic Success Coordinator who came before me (my former boss), so when she decided to move on, she suggested that I apply to replace her. I did and waited a few grueling months for an interview. I got the job only a few weeks before the school year began. One crazy year later, I am in love with my constantly changing and expanding job. My coworkers are dedicated, hardworking, and committed to our student’s success, which makes what I do that much more fun.

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

As I mentioned, I worked as a writing tutor when I was finishing my BA which really set me up for where I am now and where I am heading. Not only did I develop my proofreading and editing skills but I also learned how to teach those skills to the students that I worked with. These skills have been invaluable as I’ve grown in my career.

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

Think of your long-term goal and then find ways to start developing the skills you need in order to get there. Even if you’re in a job that isn’t necessarily “in the field,” practice your skills where you’re at and learn how to market them!

I got involved in as many skill-building and career related activities as a possible! I worked as a tutor, joined a poetry group, served as an editor for the university’s literary journal, participated in open mics and other poetry reading events, freelanced as an editor, and developed relationships with my English professors. College is the best time to get involved and start to make connections and develop skills.

For me, so many good opportunities and relationships continue to come out of those experiences.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

Think of your long-term goal and then find ways to start developing the skills you need in order to get there. Even if you’re in a job that isn’t necessarily “in the field,” practice your skills where you’re at and learn how to market them!

Become a perpetual student and always be looking for new resources and new ways to get better at your craft. Be strategic with your hobbies, activities, and opportunities. Just as importantly, say yes to opportunities when they arise. Then write a killer resume or CV to highlight all of the skills that your English degree and extracurriculars equipped you with!

You can follow Hannah on Pinterest and connect with her on LinkedIn.


Posted on January 26, 2018 and filed under Teaching, Teacher, English Major Stories, Interviews, Interview.

James M. Van Wyck: Postdoctoral Fellow

Name: James M. Van Wyck

Age: 34

College & Majors/Minors: William Paterson (BA); SUNY Buffalo (MA); Fordham University (PhD)

Current Location: New York, New York

Current Form of Employment: Postdoctoral Fellow

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I'm a postdoctoral teaching fellow at Fordham University. I teach at the Lincoln Center campus in the heart of Manhattan.

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

Every single job I've ever had has been writing-related. And that's not because most of them have been in the academy. I've worked in a corporate environment, and currently serve on several non-profit boards. I'm often called upon to craft the documents that make these institutions what they are (mission statements and the like) and the advancement letters that help bring in money to support these missions.

“At each stage of my professional life I have tried to look ahead at the accomplishments of others, and then figure out the steps they took to get where they are.”

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

At each stage of my professional life I have tried to look ahead at the accomplishments of others, and then figure out the steps they took to get where they are. I mimicked the behaviors of peers/recent graduates whose work I respected. I looked at the CVs and resumes of scholars I looked up to, and reverse engineered the processes that led to their success. Then I broke those steps into manageable tasks and plotted them on my Google calendar. I also became a shameless networker, which has led to a lot of opportunities.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

Own it. Don't ever apologize for your major. And forget the white noise about employability: the kinds of employers for whom you want to work value humanities education. I had dinner last month with a Raleigh-based CEO in NYC to secure funding for upcoming projects. He told me in no uncertain terms that the college major of an applicant to his company was almost always besides the point. What matters, he said, are communications skills and the ability to learn new processes. He used keywords like flexibility, adaptability, and teachability. His major? Religious studies. (It would have been the perfect anecdote had he been an English major!)

Another key point: make sure you take on an internship or some experience that allows you to acquire and demonstrate that you can work as part of a team, that you can communicate with a wide variety of audiences, and so on. 

To read more career and graduate school advice from James, click here. You can also connect with James on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter


Posted on March 11, 2017 and filed under Teaching, Teacher, Interview, Interviews.

Lisa Jackson: Principal Lecturer & Writing Lab Director

Name: Lisa Jackson

Age: 54

College & Majors/Minors: PhD in 19th Century British Literature, 2000, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas; MA in British Literature,1992, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas; BA in English, 1985, Austin College, Sherman, Texas

Current Location: DFW

Current Form of Employment: Director of the UNT Writing Lab; Principal Lecturer, Department of Technical Communication, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas

Where do you work and what is your current position?

“We work with students at every level, from developmental writers to students writing theses and dissertations. The great thing about teaching them is that good writing is the same across the disciplines.”

I oversee the day-to-day operations of the Writing Lab at the University of North Texas. I have 35 people who work for me at five different locations, and we see about 4000 students per semester. It’s a lot of work, but it’s really fun. We get to see students from all sorts of disciplines—business, sciences, arts, humanities, engineering, and so on. We work with students at every level, from developmental writers to students writing theses and dissertations. The great thing about teaching them is that good writing is the same across the disciplines. Format and citation style change, but a sentence always has a subject and a verb; punctuation stays the same. Our language is much more formulaic than we’ve been taught to believe. At the Writing Lab, we really focus on teaching techniques that students can use as they go forward in their writing.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

My first job was writing contracts for a copier company. I lasted six weeks at that job before going to work as a customer service representative for a corporate relocation company. At that time (1985), it was really hard to find work with just an English degree. I’d never heard of technical writing, and I really wasn’t trained to do anything other than read and analyze texts. While that’s certainly a skill, I was too inexperienced to know how to market it as an employable skill. I almost had to land in the wrong place to decide what I really wanted to do. After working at the relocation company for about 18 months, I realized that I missed the intellectual stimulation of the college campus.

I decided that I wanted to teach at the college level, so I went back to school to get my PhD. Because I worked full time, it took a long time for me to finish. I took one course a semester because that’s what I could afford. I’m rarely asked about that, but when I am, it’s a blessing because I’m able to encourage people that graduate school is do-able at almost any pace.

Eventually, I left the relocation company for a teaching fellowship at UNT. That led to a job as the graduate advisor for the English department. I was lucky because they offered me a full-time job when I graduated. Jobs in academia are hard to come by.

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

While I was working at the relocation company, I wrote a software user’s manual, although I didn’t realize that’s what it was at the time. To me, I was just solving a problem. We had an old DOS computer system that we used to price relocations. It wasn’t difficult, but because we had frequent personnel turnover, I seemed to spend a good bit of time explaining how to use it. One day, when I had some time, I wrote how to use the program from “start.” A technical writer was born.

“I’m endlessly in love with the infinite possibilities of words on paper.”

When I started working at UNT, the director of the technical writing program asked me if I would be interested in teaching a technical writing course. My initial thought was “no way.” But she pointed out that I’d been a technical writer for a long time and that if I didn’t enjoy it, I didn’t have to do it again. A semester is only 16 weeks long. I tried teaching our introductory technical writing course, and I really enjoyed it. It’s not the same as reading Dickens all day, but that’s really okay. When a student doesn’t like Dickens, it kind of hurts my feelings. When a student doesn’t like where the commas go, he or she is just wrong. I’ve taught more than 100 sections of writing, and I never seem to tire of it. I’m endlessly in love with the infinite possibilities of words on paper. And I learn new things all the time.

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

Although I got a terrific education, I’m not sure that college really prepared me for post-graduate life. I had to wander and wonder for a while before I found my niche.

I can say that if I’d known how to read them, that most of my experiences were pointing me in a writing-related direction. When I was six, my parents took me to see a musical film adaptation of Dickens’s Oliver Twist. Afterward, my mom and I had a discussion about Dickens. I walked away from that with the conviction that Dickens was the best writer in the world, and I have vivid memories of telling people just that. What’s odd is that no one pointed out to me that I couldn’t read yet!

Writing has always felt really natural for me. I won a prize for a short story in first grade. I think I always sought out writing opportunities, too. For instance, one of my friends and I used to beg our teachers to let us write a class newsletter. I competed in Ready Writing, a statewide writing competition on topical issues, when I was in high school. I was on newspaper staff in middle and high school. I kept journals, especially when I participated in study abroad in college. I was a prolific letter writer. Does anybody write letters anymore? It’s a dying art. I think I’ve just always strongly felt the urge to express myself in writing.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

Here are my top five tips:

1. Allow yourself to make mistakes. You’ll mess up. You will. It’s just part of writing, and it’s one of the best ways to learn.

2. Try something new. When someone asks you to try something new, say “yes.” I’ve spent far more of my academic career teaching subjects outside my specialty than I have teaching subjects in it. That’s given me options, and you can’t trade that for anything. I’ve been able to do some freelance work, and I’ve been able to turn work down. What a luxury!

3. Work on your craft. I’m a big believer in continuing your quest for writing mastery. Try to learn the rules behind grammar and punctuation. Learn about writing techniques. It improves your confidence and your writing because you’re making choices based on knowledge rather than on intuition. It’s also helpful when you’re asked to defend your choices to a client. In my classes, I can send students into a panic by simply asking them to identify the verb. ;) Of course, I always tell them where it is. If you can explain a grammar rule or a technique to someone else so that they can easily understand it, you’ve really mastered that concept.

4. Network! LinkedIn is your friend. You’ll be surprised at how many offers and queries you’ll get from that source alone. Upload some of your work to LinkedIn so that potential employers and/or clients can see what you can do.

5. Read, read, read. Read everything you can, from the writing on the Triscuit box to magazines, online news, and novels. I always tell my students that it doesn’t matter what they read, it just matters that they read. Reading is the best thing you can do to improve your writing.

You can connect with Lisa Jackson on LinkedIn here.


Posted on November 14, 2016 and filed under Technical Writing, Teacher, Teaching.

Brande McCleese: Adjunct Instructor, Editor, & Poet

Name: Brande McCleese

Age: 40

College & Majors/Minors: Southern New Hampshire University - Bachelors English Language and Literature, National University - MFA Creative Writing, Southern New Hampshire University - Masters English 

Current Location: North Carolina 

Current Form of Employment: Adjunct Instructor, Editor, & Poet

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I’m currently an adjunct instructor at several colleges and universities. I teach Creative Writing, Literature and Composition courses. As a sideline, I edit books, business documents and papers. I also blog at southpawscribe.wordpress.com and have been featured on soar.forharriet.com in addition to having poetry published in two anthologies.  

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

I stumbled into my first teaching positions. I was on one campus with a couple of my friends who are alumni and I was speaking to someone from the English, Language and Communication department about a poetry event that I was planning. I mentioned that I had a MFA and then the chair of the department joined our conversation and asked if I was interested in teaching. I said yes and had an interview the next day. I’ve tutored and run the writing center at a local community college and the dean of the campus mentioned that she needed someone to teach a Composition course on campus and remembered that I was qualified. Since then, I’ve been teaching at one or both schools every semester in addition to writing and editing. I’d never considered teaching as a profession before completing my MFA. In fact, it was only while discussing MFA vs. MA with a professor that I realized that the MFA is a terminal degree and what type of doors it could possibly open for me. 

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

It would definitely be editing. I was an editor for a long time before I knew it. I’ve been “fixing” my peers' papers since high school and once I found out that people were willing to pay for it I was shocked. I earned money in high school and college by editing papers and it seemed natural for me to continue to do it after college. I have taken a few courses on editing and have discovered that I love editing the work of others but not my own writing. 

I also have written poems for people/occasions and that was a job that I created for myself by always having a notebook and writing poems or sharing the poems that I began writing for my mom for Mother’s Day and her birthday. Both jobs ensured not only a confidence in creating but also that I was constantly working on something that I enjoyed.  

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

“One of the most important things that I did while in graduate school was to tutor students. I feel like my lectures and my expectations were formed during those sessions.”

Everything. I think that my education, both undergraduate and graduate, prepared me for what I’m doing now. I will caution everyone who plans to teach at any level to be willing to continue learning. I am currently taking a course on teaching writing classes because I wanted to enhance my skills and pick up some new ideas. One of the most important things that I did while in graduate school was to tutor students. I feel like my lectures and my expectations were formed during those sessions. I also learned how I wanted to structure my writing assignments and a bit about what constituted a successful essay in my eyes.  

I also loved that I was required to write every day. If you are planning to write, then that’s essential. I recently developed my first writing routine outside of NaNoWriMo and since grad school. In my opinion it is so hard without the structure of school. In college, I wrote every day especially when working on my thesis. After college, it becomes harder to balance everything and to have a dedicated writing schedule, but I manage to blog every week for the most part and to continue working on other projects.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

To not get discouraged by what you read about job prospects and to write consistently (if you love writing). I was an English major because I loved reading, I loved writing, and those were the skills that I wanted to build my career upon. I remember a discussion with a friend who said that being an English major was senseless because there’s nothing you can do with it. No one in my family ever asked what I planned to do with my degree, none of them were even surprised by my major. I’ve had plenty of support from friends who are educators and those who know of my love of writing but I’ve also received comments from naysayers asking why English? Those same people tried to discourage me from pursuing my graduate degrees in the same field. As an English major, I feel prepared for everything, except math classes. 

You can read Brande's blog at southpawscribe.wordpress.com and find her writing on soar.forharriet.com


Posted on July 11, 2016 and filed under Teaching, Teacher, Editing.