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On Oct. 7-8, Southwestern Adventist University’s English department presented a day-and-a-half of instructional seminars for English teachers from Seventh-day Adventist schools. 

Fifteen teachers attended from across the Southwestern Union, including Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Mexico and Texas. 

SWAU English department chair Renard Doneskey kicked off the seminar series with a discussion on the literacy crisis in America and how English teachers are the country’s best hope of overcoming the illiteracy epidemic. 

This literacy crisis and the seemingly insurmountable task of overcoming it, Doneskey said, was the inspiration for the title of the series — “Teaching English: Practical Advice for an Impossible Job”. 

“I asked myself what I would like to learn if I was coming to the seminars,” Doneskey said when asked about his process for choosing seminar topics. “I decided the best approach was to provide practical tips and techniques the attendees could immediately apply in their classrooms.” 

Attendees not only received practical and actionable advice, they also each received 12 hours of continuing education credits towards their annual teaching certificate requirements.

Seminar topics included how to write and grade good writing assignments, as well as how to properly incorporate film and creativity into the curriculum. There was also quite a bit of discussion around learning expectations and what college professors are hoping to see in college students. 

Doneskey said unfortunately some higher education institutions take a defensive stance and point the finger at the high school teachers if the students seem unprepared for college. The high school teachers, in turn, can often blame the elementary educators. 

Doneskey said that this culture was intentionally countered during the seminars and SWAU English professors expressed deep appreciation for the efforts of the academy teachers. 

SWAU English literature professor Kristin Denslow said she enjoyed seeing where their students came from. 

“We have great students here and it was fun to meet some of the instructors who were instrumental in the students’ development,” Denslow said. 

The seminars wrapped up with “Survival Skills Exchange,” an open roundtable discussion without a fixed agenda designed to spark meaningful conversations about topics of interest to the attendees. 

Overall, there was a strong sense of comradery among the teachers resulting from a shared understanding of the challenging yet rewarding nature of their “impossible” jobs. 

To learn more about SWAU’s English department, visit swau.edu/English.

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