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Faculty Highlights

Charlotte Strauwald

December 2015

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Can you tell me a little bit about your background?

I grew up in the Appalachians of Kentucky in a little farming community called Turkey Creek, on a small farm 4 ½ acres. It was a magical place to grow up. I learned to read when I was four, and my uncle would read to me by pointing his finger at words. I noticed a pattern, and I started to read the words to him. By 5 I could read pretty well, but there was no kindergarten, and I wanted to go to school so badly! My brothers got to go, and I wanted to go so much that I threw a temper tantrum every time I couldn’t go. So my mother took me to the school, and we talked to the first-grade teacher, and they weren’t teaching reading to 1st-grade at the time. I read the second grade primer, but they didn’t put me in second grade because I was small for my age. Then we moved to Oklahoma, and I added an Okie twang to my Appalachian drawl. At 13 we moved to San Diego and because I had started school early, I was ready to start 9th grade, high school. When we went to register, they looked at my size and listened to my speech, and they put me in remedial classes. I tell this story to my students because I want them to know that prejudice can happen to anyone at any time. I was lucky to have a teacher that noticed I didn’t belong in remedial, so she moved me to Applied Art, and then that teacher realized I should be in College Prep. But, I was a little behind. Still, the stereotype put me behind, and I want my students to know that stereotypes do not hold up—you can’t judge a person by the way they look or sound; it’s an individualistic thing, and each person is different.

I first met you during the graduate program here at CSUSM—what prompted you to return to school and get your MA?

I started writing novels, and I always loved books. I was reading one day and my husband came into the room, and I said, I could write this. My husband said, why don’t you? So I did, and they liked it, but they weren’t sure if they liked it enough to publish it. 3 ½ years later, I said you either need to publish it or send it back. They sent it back. I realized then that I needed to improve my writing skills, so I went back to school to do that. I always loved school. When my children were small, I volunteered in the classroom, and I discovered that I really loved to teach. So when I went to the Literature and Writing program, I got to teach. This reminds me of my childhood when I would come home every day and teach what I learned to my brothers. Of course, they did not want to hear it, and when I went crying to my mother, she said, “Charlotte, you love to teach.” And, the LTWR program here confirmed that. I love to teach.

What do you like most about teaching GEW?

I love the enthusiasm that the first-year students have and their excitement about going to a university. I especially enjoy that here at San Marcos because it seems like there is a level of excitement here that you don’t find at a community college.

In addition to teaching writing, I know that you are a writer. Can you tell us about the books you are writing? The novel that I used for my thesis project here got published, and I just finished the sequel. The sequel is available as an e-book on Amazon, and the first one is also now available. I love to write; it’s one of my many passions. In fact, I think I have too many passions and not enough time (Charlotte laughs)!