Fundamental to my teaching is the firm belief that a community college education is one of the great bastions of democracy in this country. In my more than 25 years of teaching, I've seen my students realize the American Dream countless times. I believe it is my job, within the classroom and elsewhere on campus, to provide my students with challenges, resources and options—all the while setting high standards for excellence.
Each learning opportunity I've created is designed to be interconnected with the others. For example, my courses are directly related to the creative writing competition I coordinate each year-which, in turn, feeds into the visiting lecturer series I developed and direct. That series also points back to class discussions, assignments and lectures, leading to new, innovative courses and course delivery methods.
Deep learning also occurs as I engage students in a multi-tiered process of learning assessment, involving continuous cycles of writing, informed feedback and revision. Students begin my courses with a pre-test writing exercise designed to assess levels of academic learning readiness as well as to evaluate various academic skill sets needed for successful course completion. Students end my courses with a written post-test in which they evaluate their semester's learning as well as set goals for their academic future. Further, my creative writing students are required to complete a portfolio and evaluate their progress at the end of each semester.
I have witnessed how education shapes perception and how that perception influences ideas which, in turn, affect human behavior. Perhaps I came to these truths because I am the granddaughter of an Italian-American immigrant who, as a girl of 13, was beaten by her father when he caught her trying to learn to read and write English. My great-grandfather had internalized—perhaps like so many of my students—a "not me, not us" complex of negative perception regarding himself, his family and his place in the world.
Knowing the power of negative perception, I consider it my first responsibility as a teacher to challenge such limiting assumptions and create a context for real learning opportunities. For example, I have created new college courses such as "Literature from Nobel Laureates," "The Artistic Experience: Biography and Identity" and "The Nature of Poetry." I teach the basics of literary theory, and my students are encouraged to apply various critical orientations to their literary analysis as well as to their own writing.
For students interested in pursuing in-depth learning, I've created, initiated, developed or coordinated numerous programs that are outside of my teaching responsibilities. They include a visiting writers' lecture series, a women's studies certificate and a campus-wide essay contest. Moreover, I have mentored students all the way through graduate programs and in applying for prestigious national writing seminars. Further, I have mentored various faculty members through our college's official faculty support program as well as unofficially coached adjuncts and even peers who teach at out-of-state colleges and universities.
I have a long list of professional experiences: three collections of poetry; numerous published poems, book reviews and articles; honors and awards for my writing and mentoring; and service in several national leadership positions. However, I like to think that my role in helping students to be fully realized human beings is one of my purest arts.
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