As part of professional development for the English department, my colleagues and I have been tasked with revamping our CVs, creating a teaching portfolio, or developing a professional online presence. As I’ve worked on creating a portfolio and have a website, I, of course, began revamping the CV right away and am currently working on ways to maintain the traditional purpose and format but still make the document more rich than just 11 pages of fluff. The process of creating an extensive body of work has led to a bit of retrospection.
A Superteacher in reflective mode…where am I going? Where have I been? (Source: JD Hancock)
January marks the end of my tenth year of teaching at the college level. I began as a green composition instructor at the University of Central Florida. My first and only UCF class was overwhelming, nerve-wracking, exciting and ultimately rewarding, but I still wasn’t sold on this as my career. I resisted the common “Oh, are you going to teach with that?” question that often came after I stated my major was English. In my mind, there had to be something else I could do with this degree. I was both right and completely wrong.
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I entered the world of editing, copywriting, and marketing eager to prove myself, to dive into my favorite activities: consulting, editing, revising, and proofing others’ work. I applied for every job I saw on Monster and Career Builder; I bought a suit, a red pen, and waited…and waited….finally, I realized no one would hire me! Why not? Not awesome enough at English? No. No experience with professional writing outside of academia? Yup. That was it. So, to gain some experience, I worked as marketing writer and editor for my step-father’s A/V rental company and did freelance work for a local design firm, Lapiz Design.
To make ends meet, I also picked up an instructional assistant/writing center consultant position with Valencia College (Valencia Community College at the time). A short time later, I was offered the opportunity to teach English composition. Being the completely broke and desperate post-grad, I took the class, thinking it would serve as a good source of income until my editing ship came in. What I didn’t realize right away (but learned by the end of that summer semester) was that this would be my calling, that the hours I spent creating transparencies of poems, hunting down vinyl recordings of Dylan Thomas, and coming up with ways to engage beyond the assigned textbook for my course, would lay down roots that are now so ingrained in who and what I am that I cannot imagine my life without teaching.
Source: Mr. T in DC via Flickr
I was offered a full-time contract at a smaller campus of Valencia College. My acceptance would mean five wonderful years at the Winter Park Campus of VC. It was here that I really found my way, a mentor in my department chair, and learned important lessons about classroom teaching, curriculum development, and community and college involvement. It was here that I also began a love affair with the community college (RIP) model. I absolutely thrived in an environment committed to learner-based methodologies and initiatives. I also learned the impact faculty, staff, and students can have on the quality of education the entire community receives.
After five years and a poor judgment call, I was adjuncting, teaching 7 classes per semester with little room for growth at a small campus, so I accepted a position at Full Sail University, where I’ve had the pleasure of further expanding my skills as teacher, presenter, course developer, and now presentation designer. Regardless of challenges (teaching for a for-profit university is at times a sharper learning curve than at a community college), I would not trade the most amazing opportunity of my professional career so far, teaching Professional Communication and Presentation. I have developed a love for new subjects, public speaking and presentation design, that infuse every aspect of my professional and personal life. I have become a crusader for beautiful slides and dynamic delivery.
The last ten years have yielded a body of work I am proud of, and a constantly re-stoked fire for learning and responsible, sustainable education that I cannot wait to share with others. In the past decade, I’ve:
- Taught 5,500 students
- Taught 20 different courses or versions of courses
- Developed 11 different courses either independently or in collaboration with amazing teachers
- Have attended 30 final project presentations
- Authored and delivered 17 presentations
- Sponsored three student organizations
- Have been inspired by amazing teachers, among them, Christin Upshaw, Sophia Buggs, and Alex Rister
- Have been mentored by two incredible humans, Kim Murray and Chris Borglum
- Immersed myself in three new subjects, the most current being my absolute bliss and joy
The first ten years have been fruitful and productive, but I have a few more goals to accomplish in the coming decade. Among them:
- Truly bring my blog up to speed
- Work on the balance between mastery and failure in the online environment
- Continue to seek out opportunities that are learner-centered
- Earn an Ed.D. in teaching and curriculum or educational leadership
- Move into instructional design and administration
So, final words/thoughts on my first ten years: I’ve only just found my groove. I am stoked for more!
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