How long have you been teaching at Tech?
This is the start of the ninth year.
What drew you to Tech?
The academic job market is tight. One thing that I like about it is it is relatively close to where I’m from. I can go home relatively easily, which is not often during the semester. My family can come here for the weekend. I don’t have to fly anywhere. I didn’t know it at the time but one of the things that makes it a good place to be is that Dr. Brucker [the head of the English Department] gives us such freedom with what we want to teach. We can propose ideas for classes and we get to do a variety of things. I can teach creative writing, film, TV, technical writing, all kinds of different stuff.
What lead you to choose English?
It was the thing I knew I was good at. Positive reinforcement is a powerful thing. I knew I sucked at math and math is part of science so that eliminated that. You know, I enjoyed writing. I wrote on my own without having to be assigned writing. Honestly, I did not have a lot of career guidance. I was just one of those people who were like, ‘How long can I stay in school?’ and ‘How long can I delay entry into the real world?’. So, I just thought I would stay in school forever by teaching.
What is your most embarrassing teaching story?
I don’t know. It’s not so much a single story. I’m sure you’ve noticed this because now I point it out when it happens, but I have an uncanny ability to make bad puns and plays on words. I do them without thinking or if I feel like I’m on the verge of one now I’ll just do it because I know I can call attention to it and make fun of myself for doing it. I think as a teacher, it’s always good when you can make fun of yourself. But, just those weird things I catch myself saying that end up for a bad joke within the context of whatever we’re talking about, and I wish I could come up with a good one that I remember but no.
What are the base classes you teach here every year?
Intro to Film and then I would say, especially now because there has been a change in the landscape thanks to the requirements of the Game Design major, one of their requirements is Intro to Creative Writing. We are offering more sections of that than we have in the past. Like, this semester we have four full sections of Intro to Creative Writing. I’m not teaching any of them this semester, but I would say Intro to Film and Intro to Creative Writing are the ones that I probably teach most regularly. Tech writing for a while, I was pretty much doing every semester online.
What is your biggest pet peeve in the classroom besides cell phone usage?
It’s not so much in class as out of class it’s the old ‘I wasn’t in class today. Did we miss anything?’ or ‘did we do anything?’. Either as face-to-face question after the fact or email. Wherever in the time sequence that comes, it bugs me. Of course, if we’re having class we’re doing something that I think is beneficial. We’re not just gonna sit there and stare at each other for 80 minutes. We’re not going to get out our coloring books. The other thing is, yeah, you missed something, but I can’t recreate that for you one-on-one after the fact and I can’t give you a transcript of everything we did. My advice is always find somebody you can trust that you can get notes from. I think that’s one thing that drives me up the wall, that and people who come in late.
Did you consider yourself a good student in college?
I had high grades. If it was a non-math/science class, I had a high grade. I was one of those people who only wanted As but not the type who would go and be like ‘I need an A.’ Okay, that might be the biggest pet peeve, is the people who want special treatment at the end of the semester for extra credit. That might be number one. The person who says, ‘I didn’t do all these assignments during the semester, but now that we’re at the end, can you give me extra work so that I can raise my grade?’ No, you should’ve done the original work when it was due.
Who inspires you the most?
I don’t know, I think my parents have always been good about providing unconditional, emotional, reinforcement. They always think I’m doing well. If I know that I’m making them proud, I think that helps. Around the office, I want to be as nice as Dr. Garvin, and if I could combine Dr. Garvin’s niceness and Dr. Wilson’s frankness, then I think I may have reached my ideal spot when it comes to interactions with other people.
Who’s your favorite film director and in that vein, what is your favorite movie?
There’s so much. This is gonna be a weird choice, but I really love the movie “Bullitt”. The first time I saw it, I was like, ‘This is great’ and I don’t know why I like it so much. The thing that that movie is famous for is the car chase, but I don’t find the car chase interesting at all. I find everything else interesting. The fact that it moves really, really slowly. The fact that most of the time the movie doesn’t feel scripted it just feels like you’re watching Steve McQueen go through his daily trials and tribulations with this witness protection thing that has gone terribly wrong.
Then, I watched it with the director’s commentary. [Peter Yates] started talking about how the style of the movie was inspired by the French New Wave. Okay, that’s it. This is why I like this movie because a few years ago there was a summer when we had a really, really, really hot summer. Every day was 104. Who goes outside and does anything? You sit with Hulu at the time and you start watching all these movies. I got into this French New Wave groove and I had to watch everything. I was fascinated by the low-budget, quasi documentary style. I loved that aesthetic of it. I tend to gravitate toward movies that have that heightened sort of realistic feel to them.
Then I also like really stylized stuff, like I think David Fincher’s “Zodiac” is an amazing movie. It’s a true crime movie and you know how it’s going to end, but that doesn’t make it any less irritating when you get to the end and they have to reiterate for you that yeah, all of this time and all of this effort and all of this horror and they don’t know who did it. But, it’s so great. The way that he handles it.
Are you a dog or a cat person or a no pet person? Why?
I’m allergic to both. I’ve never had a pet. I didn’t know I was allergic to cats or dogs until I had an allergy test because I started noticing that I had this rash on my arms. I didn’t know what it was, and it itched. I went to an allergist, did an allergy test, found out I was allergic to cats and dogs but that wasn’t my problem because I have neither.
So, if you could have a pet, what would you pick?
Some fuzzy dog like a Labradoodle. Like a real, life, stuffed animal. Yeah, but I think part of the reason I’ve never had a pet is the idea of the pet dying…. I think I’ve been too scared for that. Too emotionally vulnerable.