Name: Amber Weyland
College & Majors/Minors: Virginia Tech--B.A. in English Creative Writing and LLC (Language, Literature, & Culture); Radford University--M.S. in English with concentrations in Literature and English Education; Lindenwood University--M.F.A. in Writing
Current Location: Roanoke, Virginia
Current Form of Employment/Job Title: High school English teacher and writer
Where do you work and what is your current position?
I work for Roanoke City Public Schools. Roanoke is the biggest city in Virginia west of Richmond. I teach high school English. I also tutor through a program called Apple Ridge and write prose and poetry.
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).
Teaching for Roanoke City was my first post-graduate job. I worked several different jobs while in college. I also had the opportunity to work as an editor for Radford University while I was a graduate student, and I quickly realized that work was not something I could do 9-5 forever.
I applied for Roanoke City on a whim. I didn't know much about Roanoke, and the thought of teaching in an urban school district was terrifying. I grew up in a city, but being a student is obviously very different than being a teacher. I interviewed for a position at Patrick Henry High School my last week of graduate school while teaching as a long-term substitute in a rural school an hour from Roanoke. Roanoke called me less than a week later to offer me the position. I have no idea why I said yes when they asked, but I'm very glad that I did. Though I plan to teach college in the future, I cannot imagine teaching high school anywhere else.
What was another job that was important in your career?
Working as an editor for Radford University definitely made me realize that while I was particularly adept at editing. It also taught me that have no desire to work in the publishing world. The closest I'd like to come is working with a literary agent to have my own novels and short stories published.
I also worked a myriad of jobs to pay for college. Two jobs stick out to me: working as a crew trainer at McDonald's for two years and driving a transit bus for Blacksburg Transit for three years. Both jobs taught me just how incredibly hard I could work, and I learned a great deal about all kinds of people in that five year period.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
I wrote a lot in college. I had a few small pieces published through Virginia Tech's literary magazine, The Silhouette, and I was a finalist in the university-wide Steger Poetry Award contest. Even though these small time publications aren't something I would list on a CV, it did push me in the direction of bigger publications. I currently have two pieces out for review and I am working on two short stories and a four-book series.
I also spent a lot of time attending poetry slams and making friends with local artists. Having a community of writers is definitely an asset if writing is a career you'd like to pursue. Make connections. Make friends. Find other people that do what you do so that you have a support system and friends that are willing to comb through your manuscripts for errors.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
When people tell you that an English degree is a waste of time, politely tell them they are incorrect. My friends from Virginia Tech have begun successful careers in publishing, education, and human resources. My friends from Radford have gone on to be professors, public school teachers, editors, librarians, English teachers overseas, and many more high-demand jobs. You can and will a job that you love if you market yourself, network, get involved on campus, and maintain your grades.
Earning an English degree will teach you to communicate effectively as a writer and a speaker and to analyze and interpret people, literature, and problems in the work place. An English degree is a degree that can take you anywhere you want to go. Remember that when people tell you that you are wasting your time.