AA: How did you end up at CSUSM?
LS: I lived about four miles from CSUSM when I graduated high school, so I always knew I would attend this school. I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to attend a university while still being able to live at home; I always feared the student loan. I graduated CSUSM with a BA and MA, and while in the Literature and Writing Studies MA program, I was offered the chance to teach GEW, which excited me. I took GEW101 in 2002 (wow!), so I was excited to experience the class from the other end so many years later.
AA: Why do you teach GEW 101?
LS: I teach GEW101 for various reasons. My mom is a large part of that reason. She emigrated from Italy when she was two years old. She grew up in a home where English wasn’t spoken. She struggled in school and often failed courses when she was young. I know I have many students in the same position. I don’t want them to struggle like she did. I also do not want them to struggle like I did. I thought I was a strong writer… until I got to college. I didn’t have the best experience in GEW101. I didn’t feel as though I was prepared to write at the college-level when I left the class. It took an upper-division LTWR class (Thanks, Dr. Keehn!) where the professor took time to talk to me about the writing process, as well as my own writing, to help me develop the necessary writing skills to succeed in college; this engendered my desire to write better, and it helped me realize how important writing is and will be throughout life.
AA: What is your teaching philosophy?
LS: My teaching philosophy is pretty simple when boiled down: focus on the students. My job and goal is to help students discover their own writing processes, their own voices, and their own strengths. Sure, we talk about grammar, sentence structure, organization, and technical aspects of writing, but my hope is that all of my students leave my class with the confidence to clearly and concisely write their own ideas down on paper for others to understand and even consider.
AA: Tell me something interesting about your GEW101 class. Do you have a theme? Or what are some of your students’ favorite assignments?
LS: Right now my GEW101 theme is “Monsters.” I think society’s current obsession with zombies and vampires says a lot about what we value, as well as what we judge, so I was excited to bring this topic into the classroom.
AA: Tell me about your research interests. I remember you had a fascinating argument for your Master Thesis about the mystics, and I wonder if you can either talk about that or tell me about your current work.
LS: I have two main research interests right now. The first one is how to help students ask better questions about their own writing and to focus more on what the writer does as opposed to what the instructor/tutor/writing consultant does. I’m currently working with a few other GEW instructors on ways to do this.
My other interest is quite personal, even though it relates to the composition classroom: letting students express their own voices and having that align with their personal beliefs and allowing that to contribute to what they think. When I was a student, there were too many classes where I felt I couldn’t write or speak honestly, which frustrated and saddened me. I do not want that to be what happens to students in my classroom. I think our personal beliefs influence us in so many ways, so hindering students’ ability to incorporate those beliefs seems counter productive to me, so I enjoy researching ways to help students do this, as well as understanding why it’s important.
AA: Tell me more about your personal life. What are your interests outside of teaching and researching and writing? What do you do during your free time? What keeps you busy?
LS: When I’m not grading essays or teaching GEW, I like to hangout with my husband, seventeen-month-old son, and my two-year-old pug. I also play on recreational soccer teams, and I like to cook as often as I can.