Note: This is my personal statement I had to write for my qualifying portfolio for the English Education track at Iowa State University. Thought I’d share if you’re curious about my newer career path.
In my mind I write sentences constantly and more often than not they escape my head without writing them down on paper. But every now and then I’ll have something too good to ignore and I’ll take out my cell phone and type it out on my Sticky Notes application. I’ve composed entire stories there. My life can be followed through the many pieces of paper and saved Word documents on my computer I have written since I could form the letters of the alphabet. I have sought out my writing dreams because I never want to look back and regret not doing something my heart told me to. I went to New York City to become a part of the publishing industry and became a published children’s author. I wrote my fingers off with personal essays and got one published in a literary journal in Seattle. And now I dream of teaching my passion of writing and my knowledge of the publishing industry to make the next generation excited to dominate their words and stories.
My educational background consists of a bachelor degree in journalism and mass communication from Iowa State University that I obtained in May 2010. During this time I was dedicated to leading the First Amendment Day committee as co-chair and the Leo Mores Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists as vice president. I gained important planning skills and organizational strategies that have helped me in many situations in my student and professional life, including lesson planning. I reported, edited, copy edited, and helped create the Business section at the Iowa State Daily student newspaper from 2008-2010. I wrote for Ethos Magazine and Sketch Literary Journal, smiling at my front-page cover story about a diverse subject of same-sex marriage. I was comfortable with my writing skills, but not until those experiences sharpened my pencil.
During my first go-around at Iowa State, I turned my focus and found my true niche in Professor Benjamin Percy’s Advanced Nonfiction Creative Writing workshop in the fall of 2009. I wrote and wrote and wrote for his class, which turned out to be the best thing for me because I wrote something that made Ben and my peers stop mid-sentence and wow. I wrote my first non-journalistic memoir essay entitled Concentrated Breathing, which is attached as my piece of academic and professional writing. After taking his class, he invited me to consider a MFA program in creative nonfiction or the New York University’s Summer Publishing Institute in New York City. He said those last three words that describe the biggest city in the country and my heart jumped. That was my next endeavor and I would do whatever it took to get me there. So I applied. Then I got accepted, along with 104 other graduates from around the world.
I flew across country to Manhattan for the six-week publishing program and found homesickness and my fire at the same time. All day sessions, five or six days per week was exhausting, but I think I learned more there than in all my years at Iowa State about the book and magazine publishing industry because the sessions where taught by its editors, publishers, agents, authors, and CEOs. The program was split into two three-week periods, one focusing on magazine publishing where groups of ten students built and pitched a new magazine, and one focusing on book publishing where different groups of ten created and pitched a book imprint. I held the Web Director and Sales Director positions on these projects. Panels of professionals advised and critiqued us along the way.
I found myself falling in love with the book publishing industry just as it was switching to digital e-books and online-based content. I caught the start of implementing social networking, online resources, and e-books into our projects, which taught us how to adjust to the changing market. All of these skills are filed in my skill set folder in my brain and are ready to supply my students with those key components to becoming a well-rounded and learned individual. The publishing institute held a private career fair for us and I gave my resume to many organizations like AOL, Random House, Little Brown, HarperCollins, Hearst, Meredith Corp., and Barnes & Noble’s publisher Sterling Publishing.
In early September 2010 I accepted an internship with Sterling Publishing’s educational children’s book imprint, Flash Kids, in New York City and worked there until May 2011. While there, I served as an editorial assistant, directly under the editorial director, Hanna Otero. I edited language arts/vocabulary gifted and talented workbook manuscripts for grades one through six, which refreshed my knowledge on the subject and put the thought in my mind of some day teaching those concepts. I edited numerous drafts of these six manuscripts and every time I caught myself smiling I realized it was because I had envisioned students learning. My inner-teacher was showing.
Hanna and I sat down for our meeting with the children’s department and talk about a new preschool workbook series started fluttering from mouths, along with the decision to create a new one. She asked me if I wanted to write each of the six manuscripts, outlining the design and layout briefs for the designer who lived in California. I coolly said I’d be honored to and got right to work. If I wasn’t in a professional environment I might have screamed, “Yes!” numerous times. This was a dream and a golden opportunity to prove myself in a big way. So I outlined a pitch, pitched the idea of how each book would flow, constructed a mock-up, and once approved I wrote six, eighty-page preschool manuscripts. Those six manuscripts turned into my six published children’s workbooks on January 3, 2012 in every Barnes & Noble store in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. This taught me the love of publishing; something I hope to pass on to my students, even if it’s by the local newspaper or school newsletter.
I moved back to Iowa to become that teacher I daydreamed about being while editing in New York. I have freelanced professionally for LineZero, a Seattle literary magazine, and have done some editorial work for a manuscript critique company called Queuebooks in Minneapolis while enrolled at Iowa State University full-time. I also co-edited an Iowa State business professor’s manuscript, centering on religious studies. Finishing it was a life-long goal of his and an exciting experience for me. I plan to freelance and teach at the same time, especially during the summer months. For many years, I have been the go-to editor for my friends’ college essays, manuscripts, or any kind of writing and I take great care with those. I absolutely love it.
I have chosen to teach English as a career because writing teacher materials isn’t as much fun as actually teaching them. Through my time as a part-time childcare provider, mentor, and student in practicum, I have realized that these middle and high school students are bright and most want to learn, even if they make it hard to see. My friends and peers trust me to suggest revisions to make their work better; teachers hold the same responsibility. I want to be that great teacher whom students can trust that will teach them something. In middle and high school, writing saved my life. I truly believe this. It was my cheap therapy through struggles with family, friends, love, and discovering who I was. Students need an outlet and as an English teacher, I’m there to supply the therapy of journaling, poetry, and personal essay.
My goal is to be an English teacher who students want to learn from. I want to keep my professional writing career current because if they see me writing for fun, they will want to keep writing. I want to see those “light bulb” moments come from a lesson of mine, like those I experienced in Benjamin Percy’s class at Iowa State. I want to go beyond lecture and get my students published, into peer editing, into workshops with other students and professionals with the same interest, and ultimately confident that they can write well. I want to help a struggling student catch up when he or she is behind or work one-on-one with students to discuss their personal goals for my class. I really just want to teach what I love and learn from my students on how they want to learn or learn best.
My overarching intention is for my students to learn and enjoy learning through writing, reading, or discussing language arts. I intend to be a strong, motivated, and passionate teacher and give the publishing industry great future writers, reporters, authors, or readers. But even if the students aren’t as passionate about English as me, I still want to be able to reach them on a topic they know and enjoy. The world takes all kinds of people to be successful and even though my heart may beat word after creative word, theirs may be beating to their own drum in science or politics. But to be successful in whatever they choose to do, they must have a strong foundation of English writing and reading skills. That’s where I come in.
Writing and teaching are my passions. If I wasn’t able to do both, I wouldn’t be able to be who I really am. They go hand-in-hand. One without the other is honestly like those cheesy metaphors: a cookie without the milk or the peanut butter without the jelly. And who really likes to eat a cookie without the milk? No one. So I’m back at Iowa State University covering my bases for a happy and satisfying life.