Your  Account:

Gianna Ramirez

March 2019

Interview by Elizabeth Roush

 Gianna Ramirez

This is Gianna Ramirez’s first semester teaching GEW classes at Cal State San Marcos. She graduated with a masters degree in Literature & Writing Studies from CSUSM in 2018, and when I visited her office hours, I found her sitting at a desk strewn with student papers waiting to be graded. She sat smiling, a fresh cup of coffee and a pen in hand, looking over one of her student’s work. I could tell she was enjoying reading the paper, and I almost felt like I was interrupting. However, when she saw me, she welcomed me in and put her papers aside.

ELIZABETH: Have you seen these interviews on the website before?


ELIZABETH: So the purpose of these interviews is just to let people see a little bit of who you are as a person, outside of the classroom.

GIANNA: Oh god. [both laughing]

ELIZABETH: So the first question I had is, basically, what got you into teaching? How did you end up here teaching at Cal State San Marcos? What is your “teacher story”?

GIANNA: I guess I figured out that I wanted to be a teacher after I took my American Lit class in high school. But, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to teach elementary, high school, or college. I wasn’t sure about that--I just wanted to teach.

ELIZABETH: Oh I loved American Lit!

GIANNA: Yeah! American Lit got me to pick my major in college. I used to hate writing before that class in high school. I was just always average. None of my teachers ever said, “Hey! You’re a good writer!” or anything like that, and my American Lit teacher was just like, “You really have something. You can really work on this and get to where I think you can be.”

ELIZABETH: That’s awesome.

GIANNA: He encouraged me to take up writing a bit more, so I started doing creative writing, and that’s when I started thinking about being a teacher for writing. And then I came here for my bachelor’s, and I did literature and writing. That was my major.

ELIZABETH: Did you have a favorite class in college?

GIANNA: Oh there were so many classes here that I loved! There was “Fantastic Journeys,” which was children’s literature.

ELIZABETH: Your master’s thesis project was on children’s literature and children’s horror, right?

GIANNA: Yeah! I loved “Fantastic Journeys,” and then I had “The Monstrous Occult,” which was literally a class on vampires, witches, and zombies. That was with Dr. Breuer, and it was such a cool class! And, all my literature classes here were just... fire. [both laughing] I never wanted to miss those classes. I was so excited for every single class.

ELIZABETH: It’s cool that you didn’t really enjoy writing and literature, and then that one teacher made a difference that made you want to pursue it.

GIANNA: Yeah. And I want to do that; I want to be that teacher and help someone realize that, “Okay, I can do this.” Because I never had that before my American Lit teacher. I didn’t decide I wanted to be a college teacher until I graduated with my BA and thought, “What next?” I already knew I wanted to go into teaching, and I met up with Professor Stoddard Holmes, and she said, “You have two paths. You can do the master’s program and you can teach at college, or you can do the teaching credential program.” And I chose college just because I really enjoy college. I love it. I mean obviously, there were times where I thought, “Augh! This is too much!” But that was just part of it; I really enjoyed going to my classes.

ELIZABETH: Yeah. In college you get to learn differently, you know? I feel like when I was in high school, I didn’t really enjoy learning. And then you get to college, and the things you learn are really interesting and challenging.

GIANNA: Yeah. I love that Cal State San Marcos is really pop culture centered, and in the literature and writing program there were really fun things to read. The weird books were always my favorite.

ELIZABETH: Hence the monsters and the vampires?


ELIZABETH: Do you have any favorite memories from teaching? When you look back on your teaching experience so far, and you think, “I’m happy to be here. This is good,” what moments are you thinking of?

GIANNA: I guess, my first semester of teaching, I had no idea what I was doing... Coming in, a fresh new teacher to this class, and I was super excited to try activities I remembered when I was going to school that I loved, and then putting it into my own class and seeing their reactions to it was always my favorite part. I loved seeing them get excited about it, because I would put in my own spin on the activity to make it more engaging. And it was fun to see the students get excited about it. And another favorite memory is, the last day of class for my first semester, is having students come up to me and thank me for helping them improve their writing where they never thought they could be. And I even had a student reach out to me through an email recently--she was in my first semester class--and told me that I was the one that helped her get encouraged to go into the literature and writing program, and now she’s doing so well in the program, she’s getting close to graduating, and she thanked me for helping her decide this whole new career because I told her how awesome she’d done on her first paper, which she did. She did the best. I knew I was helping her, but I didn’t know how much she’d been impacted until she emailed me thanking me. I didn’t realize that I could make an impact like that.

ELIZABETH: Even before you knew exactly what you were doing, you had the power to make that impact on someone--as you’re trying to figure things out.

GIANNA: Yeah. Even though I was still figuring things out, I was able to help someone realize, “This is what I want to do, too.”

ELIZABETH: Is that you’re favorite part about teaching? Being able to impact students’ lives that way?

GIANNA: Hm. I’ve always found school really funny with the way it works how, especially college, it’s seen as--you come in, you sit down, you listen to the lecture for an hour fifteen minutes, then you leave. But, I think it’s fun to see how, when I come in, change that whole perception for them, and then-- oh god I forgot the question! [both laughing]

ELIZABETH: What is your favorite part about teaching?

GIANNA: Oh yeah, my favorite part about teaching! So, my favorite part is seeing how the students are seeing that school doesn’t have to be that. School can be where you can have these in class activities where you’re working together--you’re not just listening to a lecture--sitting there, taking notes, and going home. When you’re not interacting, you’re not developing those tools that you’ll need later on in life. So, I think that’s one of my favorite parts, to see them realize that school can be something so much more than just sitting in a classroom, just listening. It’s shifting from listening to them finding their own voices, being able to get their own ideas out. That’s one of my favorite parts.

ELIZABETH: Do you have any books you would recommend to GEW students?

GIANNA: Oooooo. So books. [pauses] Anything?

ELIZABETH: Anything! If a student told you, “I want to read more! What should I read?”

GIANNA: That’s hard! There are so many books! [pauses] Wow, I don’t know! [both laughing] First, I always love Neil Gaiman’s Coraline.

ELIZABETH: I know Coraline is a movie, but I didn’t know that it was a book!

GIANNA: Yeah! And it’s so good! It’s one of my favorite books. And I’ve been reading Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.

ELIZABETH: Oh those stories used to scare me so much! Isn’t someone making that into a movie? Who’s making that?

GIANNA: Guillermo del Toro! That was one of the first books I read that combined young adult literature and horror, and that’s what got me into it when I was in middle school. [pauses] What else what else what else. I also got Stephen King’s On Writing, and I really enjoyed that. I’m almost done with it.

ELIZABETH: On Writing is so inspiring! I read it, and I thought, “I can do this! I can be a writer!”

GIANNA: It’s so good!

ELIZABETH: Besides what they might read, what advice would you give your students?

GIANNA: I guess something I would have wanted to be told when I came here for my bachelor’s and I took GEW, what I wish I would have known is definitely to go to office hours. I didn’t know that was something I could do. And go to the Writing Center, too. I saw it as a place I had to go, and I didn’t see it as an opportunity. Also, just don’t be afraid to speak in class. You know? That’s something that I find funny about school. You come in, and you’re afraid. You’re not supposed to talk; you’re supposed to raise your hand. You have to be called on. The advice I would give is that you should say what you’re thinking, because your thoughts matter.

ELIZABETH: They do! Students don’t always realize that their ideas are good.

GIANNA: Their ideas are good, and they always come up with things that I don’t even think of, which creates a whole new conversation, because they’re bringing in new ideas for topics we’re discussing. When they’re not afraid to speak their minds on a certain topic, we all learn so much more.

ELIZABETH: Besides teaching, what else do you enjoy doing?

GIANNA: Well, when I’m not teaching I’ve started going back into creative writing.

ELIZABETH: Are you working on anything right now?

GIANNA: I am! I’m trying to do a collection of short stories--horror short stories. That’s one. And then, I love doing anything hybrid. So, mixed media with poetry. Anything like that. [pauses] What else? I was a film minor, too, and I’m trying to get back into film editing. I’ve been trying to--I don’t know how you would describe it. It’s hard to get back into, because you forget everything. Film editing was insane to learn in the first place, and now I have to reteach myself how to do it. So, I try to bring my own poetry into the film. It’s like, different pictures and words going across the screen, trying to create this weird, hybrid, mixed-media project. That’s what I like to do. [pauses] When I have time. [both laughing]

ELIZABETH: Like, maybe in the summer?