Posts filed under Teaching

Nagisa Toyooka: Supplemental Instruction Leader

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Name: Nagisa Toyooka

Age: 29

College & Majors/Minors: BA in English, University of Southern California

Current Location: Los Angeles, CA

Current Form of Employment: Supplemental Instruction Leader at El Camino College

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I currently work as a Supplemental Instruction (SI) Leader for mathematics courses at El Camino College. Every academic semester, I get assigned to a different course where I attend class with my students, discuss with the professor what class material I should review during “SI sessions,” and promote and facilitate review sessions that are tailored to the specific class I’ve been assigned to. It’s an interesting position and maybe a little confusing to the students who sometimes think I’m a tutor (which I’m not because I don’t work with students one-on-one) or if they ask me about their grades (which I don’t know about because I’m not a TA). I would describe it as a combination between being a teacher, TA and a tutor. Many colleges and universities around the country use the SI program as an academic program to help students succeed in stereotypically difficult courses. 

I know that as English majors many of us get asked if we would ever teach. I was one of the skeptical ones, but being in my current position, it’s definitely the most rewarding position I’ve ever been in and it makes me rethink what I want and what I value in my long-term career goals. 

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

Long story short, between my junior and senior year in college I realized that although I love writing and being immersed in artistic creativity, as I career I wanted to do pursue something that would continue to intellectually challenge me and be math-biology oriented. I wanted to pursue a research career in public health. 

But, instead of switching majors or staying in school for a few extra years, I decided it was better for me to graduate on time and figure out if what I thought I wanted to do was what I wanted to do with my life. Some of my first few jobs outside of college were working as a cashier at a ramen restaurant, working as an editorial intern at Tokyopop, and organizing specimens as an Implant Retrieval Lab volunteer at the Orthopaedic Institute for Children. I feel like the volunteer experience was what convinced me to follow that inkling I felt during my last years in college. 

After a few years in the workforce, I decided to go back to school to complete prerequisite courses that would help me to apply to graduate programs that interested me. I decided to complete lower-division requirements at El Camino College where I started working as a tutor at their math study center. While I worked as a tutor, I heard that the SI program was looking for new SI leaders and I applied. I’ve been a student in an SI session myself when I was a student at USC and I remember thinking that if I had the opportunity to be an SI leader, I’d want to do it, so I’m really glad I’ve been able to do this! 

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

In addition to working as a SI leader, I also write for Hubpages, which is a user-generated-content website. When I was an intern at Tokyopop, I wrote an article every week on their “Learning Japanese” blog. Before that position, I wasn’t really interested in writing online or blogging because I had an image that blogging was like a diary except you write online. But the Learning Japanese blog showed me that blogs aren’t necessarily about personal stuff, but it could something informative and educational. 

This is kind of a tangent, but having an English background and being a math tutor I feel like it makes me a different kind of instructor than say, an instructor with a science-math background. I try to be mindful of how I communicate with my students, especially if they make mistakes. I’ve noticed many students have “math anxiety” which I think comes from feeling discouraged about their mathematical abilities so when I talk to my students, I make it a priority to sound encouraging even though they may totally be approaching the problem wrong! I believe I’m able to do that kind of “thoughtful” communication because of the verbal and written communication training that comes from being an English major. 

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

I wish I could say that I worked several internships, networked like crazy and landed a prestigious position after college, but that wasn’t the case. 

I think networking is for real, but I also don’t think it’s the end of the world either even if we don’t have a large professional network. I feel like networking increases the chance that our resumes get looked at and bypasses some red tape, but the probability that we actually get hired for the position is the same whether we got an interview because we know someone at the company or submitted an application online. 

I always worked throughout college and I’m sure subconsciously it has helped me develop the kind of work ethic we need to be successful after college. I feel like with me it’s the opposite—being in the real-world helped me realize things I could have done better as a student. When I went back to school, I realized the power of having relevant experience on my resume, but it’s hard for me to do internships during the academic year (because I work and go to school), but every summer I made sure I did something research-y oriented because that’s what I would ultimately like to do. 

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

I feel like the best thing about being an English major is that it doesn’t prepare you for only one type of job or one type of career. If I met someone with say, an engineering degree, I kind of have an idea of what kind of company they would want to work for or what type of career path they might lead. But having said that, I also feel like the best thing about being an English major is also what makes it the hardest thing—there’s so much you can do with it that it can be really overwhelming! If there’s any advice that I could give, I would suggest that if a student is interested in becoming an English major, I would ask them to ask themselves why they want to study it and how it fits in with the rest of their life goals.

This is another tangent, but I read somewhere online once (and I agree with this statement) that when employers are hiring nowdays, they look for really specific skills that we may or may not learn during school, so I would also suggest that along with getting an English degree to get marketable experiences and skills which they could pad their resumes with. 


Posted on February 16, 2018 and filed under Teaching, Interview, Interviews.

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.

Susanna Lancaster: English Professor

Name: Susanna Lancaster

Age: 27

College and Majors/Minors: College: The University of Memphis / English major with a concentration in creative writing (2011); Grad School: Lesley University / Creative Writing for Young People (2014)

Current Location: Memphis, TN

Current Form of Employment: English Instructor at Southwest Tennessee Community College, magazine writer, editor, and children’s author

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I’m an English Professor at Southwest Tennessee Community College, and I love it! I teach English Composition 1 and 2 courses, as well as Academic Success Seminars. I’m currently planning material to teach a creative writing course. In addition to teaching, I also write as much as possible. I’ve written for both The Perpetual You magazine and Memphis Health + Fitness Magazine. My first book, The Growing Rock—a YA historical fiction novel—debuts on December 12, 2017.

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

I started my very first job when I was 16. I didn’t have a car yet and wanted to save for one so that I could have enough money to buy one before I finished high school. My dad is the librarian at a Memphis school. Since I came by all the time to do my homework, I would often alphabetize books and do little jobs around the library. When I said I needed to buy a car, he agreed to let me work there part-time. It was the perfect job in high school and college because of the quiet atmosphere. It also helped me maintain my love for reading. 

I’m truly blessed to be in the job that I’m in now. However, getting to this point wasn’t easy. For several years after earning my MFA degree, I worked a variety of jobs that didn’t necessarily “use” my degree. I realized while I was in graduate school that I wanted to teach, so in addition to a full-time office job, I taught classes as an adjunct professor at two different colleges. 

“All of my writing success has also come with many challenges, and persistence always seems to be more than half the battle.”

All of my writing success has also come with many challenges, and persistence always seems to be more than half the battle. I have gotten magazine opportunities simply by reaching out and asking editors to see my work. If that wasn’t an option, I would just submit my writing and hope for the best. When it comes to getting work published, there are usually more rejections than there are acceptances, but I’ve learned you simply have to keep trying. The Growing Rock manuscript was sent to nearly forty different agents and publishing houses before I got my “yes.” 

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

Editing! Over the years, I’ve done plenty of editing jobs for various people—from college level students, to Ph.D. dissertations, to people’s manuscripts, to resumes. This started in high school when my father didn’t have time to edit an essay for someone and suggested the person let me take a look at it. I was young, but I enjoyed grammar and writing, and I was fast at proofreading. Ever since, I’ve edited as a side job and been able to gain both more experience and extra cash. This job was very important to me when I was a graduate student working several part-time jobs and having a hard time living on my own. It seemed like whenever I was low on funds, an editing job would come my way. I think that this job played a significant role when I started teaching as an adjunct a couple of years later. It led me recognize how every student has different strongpoints, helped me with developing how I wanted to grade my students’ essays, and allowed me to see the benefits of pointing out positive and negative aspects in writing. 

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

This is a tough one to answer, but it’s something I share with my students sometimes to help them not make the same mistakes. I wish that I had done more in college to prepare myself for after I graduated. I didn’t focus enough on graduating and focused much more on getting to graduation. My senior year was pretty hectic because I had a 4.0 GPA, and I was obsessed with graduating with this level of perfection. I worried and studied all the time, and anxiety got the best of me. I actually battled an eating disorder for many years, and that became consuming. I finished college a year early and with the 4.0, but I remember being exhausted, very sick, and thinking “Now what?”

“This gap year turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise. It helped me gain more responsibility and maturity. It also helped me understand what I wanted to do, which was to be a writer—specifically a children’s author.”

I didn’t get into graduate school immediately, and I was extremely hard on myself. I ended up taking the next year off from school and working some part-time jobs, moved out of my parents’ home, and focused on taking care of me. This gap year turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise. It helped me gain more responsibility and maturity. It also helped me understand what I wanted to do, which was to be a writer—specifically a children’s author. I hadn’t been out of college for a full year when I was accepted to several of the graduate programs that focus on writing children’s literature. Because I wasn’t in school at the moment, I had less pressure deciding which one was the best for me.  

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

There’s a Winston Churchill quotation I’ve always admired. When asked to cut the funding of the arts for the war effort, he had answered, “then what are we fighting for?” This saying sums up so much in my own life. Writing and doing what I enjoy has been crucial for my health and happiness. Without this passion, I would definitely have to ask myself what I would be living for, and I don’t think I would be where I am in my eating disorder recovery. Therefore, my first piece of advice is do what you enjoy. An English major may not bring you the wealthiest lifestyle, but no major is guaranteed to do this. English degrees are also incredibly important. Most people don’t realize how necessary English majors are for many different areas outside of teaching and editing—film, television shows, and technical writing are all divisions where we need English majors. 

My other piece of advice is to be patient with yourself. Sometimes the dream career doesn’t come around immediately upon graduation, but that’s okay. There’s no harm in working a job outside of the English major and doing smaller jobs, such as teaching, or editing, to help you gain the experience needed for the job you’re working toward. When it comes to writing, I encourage people not to quit. When trying to get my book published, I did face a bit of rejection, and it was easy to feel discouraged. There were times I wanted to quit, but now I can see that my book wouldn’t exist if I had. Publishing is one of those things that may take a long time to work toward, but it only takes one “yes” to make the dream happen. Having friends to critique my work was incredibly important, and putting myself out there and looking for opportunities was crucial. Ultimately, focusing on what made me happy and not losing faith in my goals helped some of my dreams turn into reality. 


The Growing Rock debuts December 12th from Harvard Square Editions! 

When the summer of 1937 leads to one hardship after another that changes the life she knows forever, fourteen-year-old Caroline struggles not to give into hopelessness as she keeps a promise to her Papa about looking after the women in the family. 


You can visit Susanna's website at susannalancaster.com, and follow her on Facebook and Instagram @Susanna_Lancaster_Author. 


Posted on November 2, 2017 and filed under Author, Teaching.

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.

Christina Gil: Self-employed

Name: Christina Gil

Age: 41

College & Majors/Minors: English, no minor though I took lots of Spanish classes and studied abroad in Spain

Current Location: Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, Rutledge MO

Current Form of Employment: Self employed

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I was a teacher for seventeen years but I recently left the classroom to follow a dream and move with my family to a rural ecovillage in Missouri. My current position is entrepreneur, I guess! I am selling products on Teachers Pay Teachers. I am also guest blogging for a few websites. 

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

I found my first teaching job by searching the Sunday education section in the Boston globe. I got married August 14, and I started looking for jobs after we got back from our honeymoon. I ended up getting a last-minute job teaching Spanish which I did for a year before I (happily) switched to teaching English. I am currently self employed, trying to sell products on Teachers Pay Teachers.  It’s lots of fun, but sometimes I miss that regular paycheck.

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

I worked as an intern at The New York Review of Books during college, and after college I worked at a paying job there for a year (so I guess that’s technically my first job out of college). It was in advertising, though, so I wasn’t doing much writing beyond emails to booksellers, and there was very little of that for me. (Mostly, my job involved moving boxes and data entry, also lots of stuffing of envelopes.)

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

I learned how to write, read, and think for myself. Really, I have never taken an education class in my life, and yet I taught for a long time (and considered myself to be a pretty great teacher). I am a pretty firm believer that learning is about the skills so much more than the content—at least for English majors.

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

Just be glad that you didn't have to read as many history or philosophy texts (but you still got all those great ideas and historical context). Take challenging classes that get you reading difficult texts and writing lots and lots of hard papers. After that, other elements of your life will seem easy. Once you graduate, you’ll be able to write and read—which is actually a pretty rare skill.


Posted on September 1, 2016 and filed under 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.

Travis Klempan: Adjunct Instructor

Name: Travis Klempan

Age: 34

College & Majors/Minors: Bachelors of Science, English, United States Naval Academy (with a focus on philosophy); Master of Fine Arts, Creative Writing and Poetics, Naropa University

Current Location: Boulder, Colorado

Current Form of Employment: Adjunct instructor, Naropa University

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I was recently hired as adjunct instructor for one of the undergrad core writing classes at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. Students take Writing Seminar I (expository essays) and II (research papers); I'll be teaching a section of WS II.

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

When I was stationed onboard the USS Princeton, one of my collateral duties was Public Affairs Officer. This position usually defaults to young officers who majored in or studied English (or communications or something similar). Most midshipmen (naval officers-in-training, usually ROTC or at the Naval Academy) major in technical majors and have a self-imposed perception that they either aren't good communicators (and many aren't) or that things like public affairs are left to the "soft" majors. (I will say that I have a BS in English, and took 13 semesters of math, science, and engineering.)

Inevitably, though, my fellow junior officers would come to me with requests for help writing evaluations of their sailors, or awards, or help with other "soft" communications problems. I like to think that I had the best of both worlds—I could understand (to some degree) the technical aspects of working aboard a complex modern Navy ship, but I could also speak with laypeople and outsiders. I continue to balance these facets of writing —the technical and the personal, now the creative—as I prepare to teach up-and-coming writers and English majors.

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

I tried to work with extracurricular activities that focused on writing. I was a member of Labyrinth, our student-run literary magazine, as well as a writing center tutor. As a grad student I was again part of a literary journal (Bombay Gin, the Jack Kerouac School's 42-year old publication) and the writing center. Both of these jobs have helped me with the professional side of creative writing. I got to see "behind the curtain" of Submittable, which more and more journals are using for submissions, and see the editorial process from the other side. I also had to learn how to communicate my knowledge of writing in different ways when working with different writers.

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

This advice hopefully applies to English majors, non-English majors, grads, students, whatever: Be involved. I could have been far more active in some of the other extracurricular activities, and every missed opportunity is a chance to be a better writer, student, and citizen that I won't get again. If there isn't a club that fits what you're looking for, start one. If there is one, join it and learn everything you can about it. Read, write, and communicate - don't meet people just to put contacts in your little black book (or iPhone or what-have-you), but meet them to see what they can teach you or how you can help them. There is basically no job anywhere that doesn't involve working with others in some way, so learn how to be a part of a team, and have fun while you're doing it.

You can read a selection of Travis Klempan's work below: 


Posted on June 9, 2016 and filed under Teaching, Public Relations, Interviews, Interview.