Grace Hooley | Echo
Seniors Jori Hanna and Chrysa Keenon and juniors Tim Pietz, Megan Burkhart and Alyssa Roat have more in common than just their professional writing majors; they have also taught in high schools together.
Assistant Professor of Professional Writing Linda Taylor explained how this idea manifested out of a desire to share about Taylor University's professional writing program.
"I thought it would be a good idea to go to where the Christian high school writers are, and that if I could take students to do presentations about writing and publishing, that would help get the word out and show what we do in this program," Taylor said. "A group of students created four different sessions they knew they could teach based on their training and experience in the program."
Taylor spoke with Admissions Counselor Jared Burgess who signed off on the project. He also gave Taylor the names and emails of teachers in the local Christian high schools between Fort Wayne and Indianapolis.
After writing to those contacts explaining what they wanted to do, two schools responded. Hanna, Keenon, Burkhart and Pietz taught at Heritage Christian High School on Wednesday, April 24, and Hanna, Keenon, Roat and Pietz taught at Lutheran High School on Tuesday, April 30.
"The best part of teaching in these high schools was the speaking experience in front of various audiences," Hanna said. "It was comforting to know that I could keep a high school class engaged, even if they weren't particularly interested in the topic at large."
Pietz mentioned how the process of teaching was not always easy. One of the hurdles toward the beginning was how to relate to high school audiences. Finally, the students found a balance between impressing the teacher and engaging the high schoolers.
Another challenge was working with a group of skilled, but independent, students to create teaching content that was both compelling and informational. Over time, the students found their strong and weak teaching points and found ways to balance one another.
"Working in a group for an artistic, creative project is difficult," Pietz said. "The planning phase was a bit stressful, because we had different ideas of what we wanted certain things to look like. It's especially hard to be cohesive when you're splitting a presentation between four people! But there were some great benefits of co-presenting. When it comes down to it, and you're presenting alongside someone, bouncing the conversation back and forth in a natural way, you feel less pressure and it becomes more engaging."
The sessions taught where "What Is a Story?", "Having Something to Say," "Making a Career Out of Writing" and "How to be Cool (by publishing a book)". The students taught in five to seven class periods in each school, and they were usually split into pairs teaching different classes at the same time. Overall, they were able to talk to over 200 high school students.
This was groundbreaking for the professional writing department, but Taylor expressed deep desire to continue these high school visits into next fall and spring semesters, especially after the pleasant feedback from some of the teachers.
"One of the teachers at Heritage wrote this: 'We enjoyed having you here.'," Taylor said. "'I was particularly impressed with your students' composure in presenting. A couple of my girls said they couldn't believe they were students, that they seemed like adults (which of course they sort of are). Blessings on the end of your school year, and please thank Jori, Megan, Tim, and Chrysa for all of us!'"
The students enjoyed their time with this project and Pietz even hopes to return and help out with it next semester.
According to Pietz, the large motivator for the professional writing program at Taylor is the students within the major. Not only are these students published in different areas, but some have even received book deals.
"It's really a great idea to have students do the presenting at high schools because it showcases our knowledge of our field - it shows the program is legitimate," Pietz said. "On top of that, we're only a few years older than the high schoolers we present to. It's not hard for them to see themselves in our shoes in a few years."