Q: What made you want to teach writing?
It was a professor who helped me to realize that teaching writing was what I wanted and needed to do. I was a returning student at a local community college. I was working as a pharmacy tech. I was married with four children. I was taking classes two at a time. When I was enrolled in English 202, I went to see my professor about my writing and I was frustrated I wasn’t getting the grades I thought I had earned. First he pointed out to me how my writing could improve to get the grade I desired and then he stepped aside from his instructor role and became a mentor. He said to me, “Syndee, you should be standing in front of this classroom instead of sitting in it.” And when I left that meeting everything I did was with the goal of being a college-writing instructor in mind.
Q: What do you think is the biggest strength you see in your freshman writers and what areas do you think they need the most help with?
The biggest strength I see in freshman writers is their desire to do well. And that makes me feel excited because I see a spark of interest in them which is what anyone needs to even begin to be able to succeed.
One area I think freshman students can work on is understanding what it means to think critically and that when we look at texts with an analytical eye, we are doing more than just summarizing and thinking about what’s being said. We are looking at those texts for how the ideas are being said and how those ideas contribute to us understanding our world.
Q: What do you struggle with the most as a writer? How do you overcome it…or do you?
I struggle with the same things GEW students struggle with. We exist in language, and using that language to capture and portray those ideas seems impossible. I overcome that struggle by going through the writing process. Whether it is for a Facebook post, an email to a student, a prompt for an assignment, or writing I do professionally, I have to generate ideas, then pre-write, then draft, then revise, revise, revise…!
Q: Do you have a favorite author? Why?
Steinbeck. Because Steinbeck.
Q: Have you ever read a book that you were told was a “Classic” or “really important” in some way that you didn’t really like? Have you since re-read it and did your opinion change?
Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. Yes, I did re-read it many years later and once I realized what the book was doing for that generation, I loved it. But it took my professor’s lecture to open my eyes to the ways in which Hemingway was portraying the pain and loss of the time.
Q: When you’re not teaching, what do you like to do?
I love my life. I’m a mommy. I’m a dog owner. I’m a friend. And I’m in a wonderful relationship that makes me very happy. All of those things, in addition to fulfilling my dream of being a teacher, make me feel complete.