Sunday, November 11, 2012

On a Positive Note...

I feel like I need to offer a little bit of balance to some earlier posts—including the last one—about the state of today’s college students. Yes, it’s fun to focus on problems (like not bringing books, paper, or even a pencil to class), and yes, it’s much easier to entertain with these little anecdotes than with the feel-good stuff, but it’s also important to give credit where it’s due, and the truth is that I have encountered some incredibly motivated and talented students over the last fifteen years.

Before I get to my woefully incomplete list of these students, though, I have to say a few words about teaching.

To put it bluntly, I love my job.

In fact, I’m so grateful doing what I do that I try not to talk about how great it is; at best, it would seem like gloating, and at worst, I might jinx it. But the truth is that I get to talk to students about ideas, enrich their lives through reading and writing, and help them define and reach their goals.

And I get to do this at a community college—the most truly democratic institution in our educational landscape in that it has a 100% acceptance rate, affordable tuition, and outstanding instruction. If one believes, as I do, that a broadly educated populace makes for a healthy society, then it’s the community college that will help get us there.

But back to my students. Below is just a fraction of recent students who are doing amazing things since passing through my classroom:

One is working on her teaching credential and is currently doing classroom observations at a local middle school. She’s one of many of my former students who have chosen to go into teaching.

Another just transferred to UC Riverside, where he’s already been accepted as one of a handful of fiction editors on their literary journal.

Another, also interested in writing, transferred to UC Berkeley to study creative writing. Next semester, he’ll be one of thirteen students who was accepted into a workshop that will be taught by Joyce Carol Oates.

UC Berkeley was the destination of another former student. While at Palomar, he started our English Majors Club. After graduating from Berkeley, he worked at Google for a while and is now heading to law school.

Yet another one of my former creative writing students (who was also an editor on our literary journal) is currently in a master’s program at Portland State University.

It’s not all about books and writing and literary stuff; one recent student, a navy veteran, is currently enrolled in business school at UC San Diego.

Another one just started a Ph.D. program in Socio-Cultural Anthropology at Cornell (after finishing a Master’s degree program at Columbia). She’s already published one article with a second one on the way. When she was at San Francisco State, she put together a collection of creative and personal writing by women that she had worked with in the community.

Okay, so we’re back to writing.  Here are two more:

One woman entered my creative writing class several years ago as a returning student. She’s been working as a tutor in our writing center for the last few years, but she’s also been working on her own projects. She recently published this book, and is hard at work on her second.

And another student took a couple of composition classes from me as a sixteen-year-old. She transferred into the USC film school (no easy feat), received her degree, and recently published her first novel with Simon & Schuster. Her second novel is coming out in the spring, and both are the first installments in two separate middle grade/young adult fantasy series.

My apologies to the many other former students of mine that I haven't listed here but who have nevertheless worked hard to achieve their goals. I’d love to hear stories from others about your positive experiences as either student or teacher and how your hard work (on either end) has paid off.

1 comment:

  1. Rocco, I had a professor this past Spring who taught me creative writing, which was no easy feat for this essay-factual-Psychology driven student. At first I didn't think I would be allowed into his class due to a technicality that took me off the waiting list, but he added me and it changed my life for the better. This professor opened my eyes and my mind unlike any professor I have ever met. I stalked him over email and during his office hours because he inspired me to continually improve. I had to dig deep and reveal issues I am not proud of but it helped me heal and realize how far I have come. Creative writing is not my major but something I now enjoy employing tremendously as a tool in every class and everyday experiences. I am grateful that he chose to teach because I will look back ten years from now, with my PhD in Social Psychology and know I couldn't have achieved it without him. My success is also yours, Rocco, and I hope to make you very proud. Thank you for everything you continue to do for me and countless others. The bad sometimes can overshadow the good, but not when you are lucky enough to have a professor named Rocco Versaci.