Homeq and aQ&A with Regan Minkel, English Professor

Q&A with Regan Minkel, English Professor

Interview and photo by Bailey Saulters

Q: What is it that you do at TJC?
A: I do a lot of things. My main responsibility is to teach English;
Composition I, Composition II, World Lit. I’m the editor of the Bell Tower Arts Journal. I’m the faculty senate secretary — a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff.

Q: What are some of the responsibilities associated with your jobs?
A: As a teacher, my responsibilities are to deliver the content in a way that resonates and to hire administration, to enter grades and to meet student deadlines by getting assignments back on time. More specifically, it’s to teach writing, to meet those objectives to teach college students how to write an academic essay. My responsibilities for the Bell Tower Arts Journal would be to promote this journal on campus and to gather submissions from students. I also have to coordinate meetings, edit submissions and create the Bell Tower manuscript. Faculty Senate responsibilities include being a voice for faculty and administration. It is also to see change on campus that will benefit us and the students.

Q: Given the sheer amount of things you do on campus, is there something you do to help relax you at the end of the day?
A: Yes, I will admit I like to sink my brain into reality TV and into things that don’t really make me have to think. I have my shows that I can go home and watch that just help me not to think things at that moment. I also run. I love to run and workout that kind of helps me to detach a little bit and close some tabs in my brain. Those are things I do that I think help.

Q: Are the subjects you teach assigned to you or are you allowed to pick which subject you want to teach?
A: Well, I am only able to teach English because of my degree. I have so many hours in a master’s degree program that’s all in English. I am only certified to teach English, but I could teach anything in the English department. The English department has Technical Writing, Creative Writing, Composition courses and then World Literature, so I could technically teach all of those things. But we have people in the department that have MFA’s in things like Creative Writing and I don’t. So they teach Creative Writing even though I could because it’s all under the purview of English. The short answer is yes, I’m teaching what I’m certified to teach, but my boss assigns me those classes.

Q: How did you arrive at English being a career choice for you?
A: It kind of fell in my lap. I kind of always wanted to be in it, but I didn’t have much direction. I loved school and that’s all I knew, is that I loved school and that I loved to learn. I thrived in college and I just loved that space where people could all get together and talk about ideas. And then in the midst of that I loved writing, and I found that I really enjoyed writing as an outlet creatively, I pursued English as a degree because of that.

Q: How long have you been teaching English in general?
A: My entire career consists of Tyler Junior College. I was a TA in graduate school, but it was never a full-time teaching gig as I was still getting my master’s. So six to seven years.

Q: Do you think TJC is a good place to have started teaching?
A: I think it is a wonderful place for teaching. I think it actually lets you do teaching. If I were to go to a university there would be a whole lot of outside pressure on getting published as a professor and doing research in my field. These are all wonderful things, but I think you have this luxury of that this is just about teaching and being able to teach students, which is what I want to do. I like doing that.

Q: How have some of the new campus policies/Coronavirus procedures affected your daily routine on campus?
A: It’s changed a lot as a writing teacher because English is not a lecture-based class. It’s not where I just stand up at the front of the class and talk the whole time. It’s about doing writing exercises and then I help one-on-one for each student that needs me to look at their stuff. That’s been really challenging when you’re six feet away from them or you’re trying to maintain distance, how do you help one-on-one when you can’t get close? That’s hard to do, it’s hard to help students without getting close to them. Peer review, where we exchange papers, and we read each other’s papers, that’s obviously not the way we do it now because we can’t exchange papers. The shift to online or at least having a lot of our stuff in the online classroom, I would say that it’s been 1,000 times more work on us. I know it’s hard for students, too. It’s stressful and it’s scary. It’s just been a lot. We have to be able to teach in all kinds of different ways at all times of the day for any kind of student. It’s trying to figure out how you overcome teaching from so far away in order to help them to get better.

Q: Is there anything you would like to say to the students who have felt discouraged to continue their academic studies during this turmoil?
A: I think this is applicable not just to COVID, but anything in life. Growing through and facing challenges, whether it be academically or something else, you must use this as an opportunity to learn more about yourself. Things that you are good at and things you can be successful at, but also things you’re not so good at. Use this time as a time for reflection and learn to grow through all of this. Don’t be blind to the things that are happening, take it as an opportunity to grow. Maybe that means you want to take face-to-face classes, but it would be better to take online. Take it as a way to learn to be better at online learning and to be flexible.

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