Local community colleges hire English and creative writing grads

Emily Froese (MA English) at College of the Sequoias; Cody Hoover (MA English) at Clovis Community College; Kristen Norton (MFA Creative Writing) at Fresno City College; and Monique Quintana (MFA Creative Writing) at Fresno City College.

By Jefferson Beavers
Communication Specialist, Department of English


Four of the six new full-time, tenure-track English instructors hired locally by State Center Community College District and College of the Sequoias for the 2019-20 academic year are Fresno State English Department alumni.

They are: Emily Froese (MA English) at College of the Sequoias; Cody Hoover (MA English) at Clovis Community College; Kristen Norton (MFA Creative Writing) at Fresno City College; and Monique Quintana (MFA Creative Writing) at Fresno City College.

These educators are dedicated teachers with a range of classroom experiences — from graduate teaching associate positions at Fresno State, to area high schools and community colleges — and they represent the latest standouts among our English and Creative Writing graduate program alumni who’ve decided to keep their higher-ed teaching work at home in the Central Valley.

Emily Froese

Emily Froese (MA English) at College of the Sequoias
Emily Froese (MA English) at College of the Sequoias

Emily earned her Master of Arts degree in English, with an emphasis in rhetoric and writing studies, in fall 2018. She quickly landed a full-time, tenure-track English professor position at College of the Sequoias in Visalia.

What English Department graduate courses or professors at Fresno State were most influential or useful for your teaching today?

It is difficult to narrow it down to the most influential; I could say all of my courses played a unique role in the way that I teach. There are, however, three specific classes that I continue to think about because they set me on the path to where I am today.

When I started the English MA program, I received the best advice, which was to just start with one class. That happened to be the research methods course, with Dr. William Arcé. This was one of the most challenging but most fulfilling classes because he pushed me out of the undergraduate mindset and showed me how to be a graduate student. This was also the semester that I realized I wanted to switch my emphasis from literature to rhetoric, and I must thank Dr. Arcé for pushing us to make connections with other professors across the campus.

Another influential class was Dr. Ginny Crisco’s practicum in teaching writing. Even though this was a short course in the summer, I received so much inspiration from the theory and practice of teaching that I was inspired to write my thesis on disciplinary literacy. Disciplinary literacy is the foundation for my teaching in English 1.

Finally, I have to mention Asian American Literature with Dr. Samina Najmi. I not only appreciated the high standard that she held for the class, but also how she led discussions, which made it easy to dig into the literature. I grew as a student under her guidance, and even published one of my essays from her class in a graduate journal, which I never would have aspired to try had it not been for her detailed feedback. I am even using a novel from her class in my introduction to literature course this semester, “No-No Boy” by John Okada, and I have used her writing tips and feedback to help my students write better essays.  

All three of these courses had a direct impact not only because of the content, but because these professors’ teaching styles and high expectations. I try to emulate them in my own practice.  

What do you wish your graduate coursework would have taught you about teaching, in hindsight?

In hindsight, I wish I would have had more work with norming student papers and working through sample student drafts in conjunction with the writing theory.

To you, what makes the most effective community college writing instructor?

This is a question that I am continually exploring as a first-year, full-time professor, but I think consistency, feedback, and collaboration are three important areas that make an effective writing teacher.

First of all, consistency is important in how we communicate and interact with students. They need to know that they can depend on their professor to consistently hold them to a high standard, which takes consistent preparation, enthusiasm, and feedback. If I am not consistent in these areas, then I am not trustworthy as a teacher or a professional.

Feedback is a second area of effective writing instruction. Students need detailed, timely feedback to improve their writing; without this, the motivation to revise is nonexistent. I strive for conversational feedback that invites students to consider their writing choices based on the rhetorical situation they are exploring. Most of the time, the response from students is, “I never thought of it this way!” because they have been told that writing has to be “correct” rather than effective. My students are excited when they see a lot of comments because it no longer causes fear, but instead encourages growth.

Finally, collaborating with other professors is key to the development of effective writing instruction. I spend a lot of time working with colleagues, sharing writing samples, and discussing pedagogy in various work groups. I also think it is important to work with professors in other disciplines and see what they value because it continually informs my own writing instruction. I want students to be aware of how their writing transfers to other fields, and I want them to be aware that writing has no fixed formula, but is fluid depending on the values of the discipline.

Cody Hoover

Cody Hoover (MA English) at Clovis Community College
Cody Hoover (MA English) at Clovis Community College

Cody earned his Master of Arts degree in English, with an emphasis in literature, in spring 2014. After teaching as an adjunct instructor for several years, he landed a full-time, tenure-track English instructor position at Clovis Community College.

What English Dept graduate courses or professors at Fresno State were most influential for your teaching today?

The best thing about doing the MA in English at Fresno State is that the program is pretty heavy in composition and it trains you to teach writing and teach well. Everything I learned at State during my master’s program — from tutoring at the Writing Center, to teaching in first-year writing, to taking graduate courses — has helped me in my teaching. Especially then teaching at the community college level, where you get primarily composition and critical thinking courses, many (to me) basic teaching practices come super naturally because they had been so ingrained in me during my time at Fresno State.

Specific professors, though, would have to include Dr. Ruth Jenkins, Dr. Bo Wang, Dr. Ginny Crisco, Dr. Rick Hansen, Dr. Magda Gilewicz, Dr. Steve Adisasmito-Smith, and Dr. Kathleen Godfrey. I’m sure there’s others I’m forgetting, too! The course where I learned the most was English 270, the seminar in teaching writing, which a lot of people take begrudgingly, but honestly it’s the most practical course you’re going to take in the English Department if you plan on teaching.

I learned a ton from the Writing Center practicum we took every semester while working there, which was with Magda. I took the research methods course with Dr. Jenkins, and that was helpful. She’s a great resource for both teaching literature and composition because she has a background in both, so the way she designed the course was super helpful to give everyone a broad base of knowledge in the entire field of English. I basically learned what the field of rhetoric and writing studies was from taking that class.

I took Dr. Godfrey’s American Indian literature class, and I always liked how sort of meta-commentative she would be, telling us explicitly like, “I’m modeling for you how you can teach this sort of lesson.” Even something as simple as that was helpful to me at the time, a 21-year-old man-child who really didn’t know anything about teaching at all yet. It taught me to pay attention to how people teach, not just the content they were teaching, which is sort of the point of learning to teach, really. It’s real easy to repeat something we read or some body of knowledge, but that “how” and “why” are kind of the point. And I think all of my professors were great about making that lesson known.

What do you wish your graduate coursework would have taught you about teaching, in hindsight?

I think a little more information on exactly what it’s like to work as an adjunct instructor after graduation and sort of work your way through the ranks would have been helpful. Granted, as I was finishing, I was accepted into Ph.D. programs, so my mind was a little more geared toward that track of scholarship and trying to get a university job. But the reality is that no matter what you’re doing — MA, MFA, Ph.D. — you’re probably going to be adjuncting at community colleges and universities, basically anywhere you can pick up classes.

I had to sort of learn through asking people questions after my MA program and through experience just exactly what I needed to do to hopefully (and luckily, for me) attain that grand lottery prize at the end of the rainbow: the full-time, tenure-track job. I think especially for people who do the MA, especially in literature, you’re going to be teaching so much composition, so let it in, don’t resist. You want to be trained in comp. It’s a good thing.

I also wish I had learned more about how to teach reading. In the California community colleges, the big issue is AB 705, which grad students should know about if they’re planning to enter this world. The deal with AB 705 is that “remedial” English courses have now been eliminated, so the model of first-year writing in the community colleges is a little closer to how it is at Fresno State. Either students go into a one-semester English 1 course, or they’ll take the English 1 course with a co-requisite support course attached. Effective instructors who teach these composition courses with the co-requisite will spend a lot more time working with students on reading, which most beginning English instructors don’t know a ton about yet. So, I think more of that would have been helpful.

To you, what makes the most effective community college writing instructor?

I think someone who’s flexible, well-read in composition theory, equity-minded, works to sort of dismantle hierarchies in the classroom, committed to active learning, and willing to engage in professional development makes an effective community college instructor. I think also if you’re trying to get into this game, you’ve got to sort of play the game. Teach as much as humanly possible; it sucks, but you need to get as many classes as you can and just try stuff out. You need the experience of experimenting with lessons and activities and working with a wide array of students in different contexts, course formats, campuses, etc. This is not always the easiest thing to do, but it will make you a more effective teacher, I think.

Also, try to get a gig at a writing center at one of the community colleges in the area. You’ll learn a ton of writing administration stuff: revising student learning outcomes, working with data to make meaningful program changes, applying for grants, doing more professional development and conferencing. It’s nice to get that little peek behind the curtain. You also end up working with some of the most underprepared students at your school, which teaches you how to then work with these students more effectively in the classroom.

Monique Quintana

Monique Quintana (MFA Creative Writing) at Fresno City College
Monique Quintana (MFA Creative Writing) at Fresno City College

Monique earned her Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing, with an emphasis in fiction writing, in spring 2016. After teaching as an adjunct instructor for several years, she landed a full-time, tenure-track English instructor position at Fresno City College.

What English Dept graduate courses or professors at Fresno State were most influential for your teaching today?

Dr. Ruth Jenkins and Dr. Chris Henson were the first professors that made me feel confident talking in full-class discussions. Up until that point, I had hardly any female English professors, and the experience of being an English major had felt somewhat skewed for me. 

Dr. Jenkins encouraged my interest in female sexuality and gender theory in gothic literature, which has been my favorite genre to read since girlhood. I always try to encourage students to read what they love and have autonomy over what they write about.

Dr. Henson taught me a lot about holding my own space in the classroom. I remember once a male student was especially dismissive towards me during a peer-review workshop. He offered to take my book home and interpret the work for me, so I could finish writing my research paper. When I shared about the experience with Dr. Henson after class, she said something like, “I was hoping that wouldn’t happen, but I grouped you with that person because I knew that you especially could navigate a difficult situation like that.” That was a validating experience for me, and I often reflect on it when negotiating my gender in the classroom. It’s not easy. 

What do you wish your graduate coursework would have taught you about teaching, in hindsight?

Overall, I wish that our graduate coursework would have taught us more about the experience of being an adjunct instructor and how to navigate the process of applying for and securing full-time teaching positions. I say “us” because I’ve had so many discussions about this with other English Department graduates. This is a huge issue in our discipline and I know there’s a lot of us that would like more transparency and information about the processes.

Also, I do believe it’s essential that these conversations include discussions about employment outside of teaching, because I believe that’s something we all consider at some point. 

To you, what makes the most effective community college writing instructor?

This is something I’m sure I’ll need to reflect on for a very long time. For now, I’ll say that community college instructors need to understand that students have lives outside of school, just like we have lives outside of teaching. We expect them to be respectful of our time, so we should be mindful of theirs, as well.

I used to assign my students a lot of heavy reading, chapters of long novels and such. I began to notice that students would come to class without having finished the reading and they couldn’t participate to their fullest capabilities in class. Initially I was upset about this, but then I remembered how when I was a student at Fresno City College. I was a mother to a young son. Most nights I had to help him with his own homework or spend hours at the emergency room when he was sick. Sometimes I had to go to class having not been able to do the reading assignment. I remembered how anxious and embarrassed I felt then.

Now, I assign my students to read a flash-fiction anthology. We read the short pieces aloud together in class. It’s helped in so many ways. Yes, I do believe education should be rigorous, but it shouldn’t feel like a burden either. That just seems counterproductive to me. 

Kristen Norton

Kristen Norton (MFA Creative Writing) at Fresno City College
Kristen Norton (MFA Creative Writing) at Fresno City College

Kristen earned her Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing, with an emphasis in fiction writing, in spring 2016. After teaching at multiple high schools for several years, she landed a full-time, tenure-track English instructor position at Fresno City College.

What English Dept graduate courses or professors at Fresno State were most influential for your teaching today?

All the professors and courses I took in the English Department were instrumental in creating writing opportunities that fully immersed me in the writing process and helped me to understand both how frustrating and how rewarding the act of writing can be. These experiences have helped me empathize with my students as I ask them to engage in productive struggles to figure out how to language their ideas.

In addition, my participation in weekly writing workshops gave me strategies for how to create a safe, supportive space for students to open up and share their work with each other in order to gain the feedback needed to fuel their revisions.

What do you wish your graduate coursework would have taught you about teaching, in hindsight?

Understanding how to effectively transfer teaching methods from graduate students who have chosen to pursue creative writing and literature to the academic writing that is required of all undergraduate students has been a challenge that my graduate work did not prepare me for. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to teach first-year writing during that time in grad school, which definitely helped me in my transition to teaching at a community college.

To you, what makes the most effective community college writing instructor?

One of the things that makes an effective writing instructor at any level is the ability to give students instruction in and practice with the writing process. I particularly emphasize the role repeated revision plays in being able to capture their complex thoughts in clear, coherent ways. All writers know that revision is an ongoing process that can both drive us crazy and also help push our work to the next level.

My goal as a writing instructor is to empower all my students to see themselves as writers. To this end, I find different ways to help them develop their individual voices on the page. Once they discover that voice, I encourage them to incorporate it into their academic writing by designing assignments that engage them on a personal level as a means to further their skill development. This leads to a personal investment in their writing which results in their willing and thoughtful commitment to the process of shaping and re-shaping their ideas on the page to best reflect who they are and what matters most to them.

In addition to these four English MA and Creative Writing MFA alumni who got full-time teaching positions locally, several other recent grads also landed full-time positions starting 2019-20 at other schools. They are: Bryce Downing (MA English), at Baker College in Cadillac, Michigan; Misty Lawrenson (MA English), at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas; and Tara Williams (MFA Creative Writing), at Mojave Community College.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.