A language of life beyond words

Hannah butler/The Arka Tech Dr. Rebecca Garvin shares her story beyond the English Department.

Dr. Rebecca Garvin of the English department has many qualities; however, boring is not among them. She considers her adult life in three phases: raising a family, her career and her third stage—making art.
After completing her bachelor’s degree in psychology at Blue Mountain College, she got married. When she met her husband freshman year, Dr. Garvin admits, “I thought he was weird, and I didn’t want to talk to him,” she said, laughing, “but then he kept coming around and coming around…and so like, after our first date, three weeks after our first date, he proposed. Which is ridiculous. And so he had to propose a lot more before he even wore me down.” Her eyes lit up while she laughed. She longed for a family with and it was definite for her that she wanted to make her children the priority.
Now that they are grown up, Dr. Garvin’s children lead particularly intriguing lives. One is a stand-up comedian, one works with Fusion Management in Nashville and the other is a middle-school teacher in Washington, D.C. She passed down her interest in people to her children. Dr. Garvin said that her children have the same kind of love and understanding for others that did not grow up the same as them.
She spoke extremely highly of all of her family. There is a tone in her voice when she speaks about them that shows she feels so lucky to have all of them.
“I had great parents, a great husband, great children, great grandchildren,” she said, trailing off. While her children grew up, she chose to stay home, and it was not for seventeen years that she started tutoring international students. She began to devour and love it. Her love for teaching stemmed from her roots.
Early on, Dr. Garvin was taught that “people are people.” Not only was she taught by her mother and father, the experiences around her growing up that made her become fascinated with others. When she was 14, she started working with the VolunTEEN program during the summer in Memphis, Tennessee. Over the next two summers, she worked with the Salvation Army daycare for underprivileged children, as well as the Veteran’s Hospital.
“It put me in touch with the people who did not have the same exact experiences as I had,” she said. “It also made me fascinated with people.”
She wanted to do more with people, and once her children were older, she felt compelled to start fresh.
“You get to a point where you feel like there’s something you need to be doing, that you’re interested in so many things.. and I was still interested in people,” said Dr. Garvin.
During this revelation, she noticed that Murray State University was forming a TESL program in English education. She was accepted, and the opportunities did not stop there. As a graduate student, she was asked to complete an internship in China, and taught in Beijing at the Servants Center while overseeing the other English teachers. After graduating with her master’s, she spent time working at Murray State, teaching for six years and then working in the Vice President of Academic Affairs office by editing documents. Yet, she felt she wanted even more out of teaching.
She started at Indiana University in Pennsylvania for her PhD. There, Dr. Garvin began studying linguistic landscapes as a teaching assistant, and got involved with a group called the Linguistic Landscape Scholars. The group has met every year since, with each meeting being held in a different country. So far, she has been to eleven and counting, and she also has a basic understanding of five different languages.
“[Sociolinguists who focus on linguistic landscapes] are researchers from all over the world, who are looking at the world, looking at public spaces and how people mark these public spaces. It looks at everything from graffiti, to sort of, political sort of contestations and things like that that go on in public spaces. And how language and icons and images are used to construct sort of an understanding of place and space, and then orient people while they’re in that space…it’s just this way of looking at the world,” Dr. Garvin said simply. “It’s exactly what I love.”
As a professor, Dr. Garvin is always willing to help students and show that she cares. She loves that students give so much back to her once she shows them that she truly cares. She expresses that: “Teaching is energizing [in that way]. If you can create a space where people do feel accepted and free to experiment with their own thoughts and ideas.”
As she is creative in her teaching methods, she is creative in general. At a very young age, she fell in love with art. Particularly, she enjoys ceramics and oil painting. At one point in her life, she had to deal with several family members passing away, and art was a way for her to deal with it. She began to make a set of pieces about life and living. She used pottery to portray her birth family. While she does not use art so much anymore, she does spend the time she has discovering her genealogy. She hopes that when she is in her next stage of her adult life that she spends more time creating.
Dr. Garvin has left her own uniqueness by caring and staying as invested as she is in others.

Hannah Butler
About Hannah Butler 26 Articles
Hannah Butler. Print Journalism major. Enjoys traveling. Likes to read. Obsessed with Mexican food. Wants to accomplish her long-time goal of watching “The Office” series fifty times. email: hlbutler17@gmail.com