Wednesday, January 20, 2021: It is 11:55am - Lunch time! The sun is shining behind the clouds and the birds are chirping (we think- we were actually inside so, upon reflection, we have realized that we can’t really attest to that). The mood is light and the Human of CPS makes small talk as we anticipate the first interview of 2021. I click record. “Welcome, Anna.” The interview has begun...
Nora: What’s it like joining a school mid semester and online and are there any unique problems or experiences you’ve had that have arisen because of COVID or anything else?
Anna: Joining mid semester online has been particularly interesting because I feel like my priority is getting to know my students and getting them comfortable talking with me. You know, hanging out as a class rather than diving right into the material. I imagine some of them may be getting impatient but it’s important to me, so that’s what I’ve been prioritizing given the strangeness of this time for joining the College Prep community. As far as strange circumstances because of COVID, though I am now living in Oakland, I was working remotely in the fall, and because I didn’t have anywhere I needed to be, I decided to move back to my home town and spend some time with my parents. It was more family time than I bargained for, more good than bad, but more than I bargained for.
Celia: Is there a piece of literature that you are most excited to teach this year?
Anna: I’m going to be teaching Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass as the second text with my English 1 student this year, and I’m excited because I have studied it a few times at different levels as a student, but have never taught it before. I’m going to be taking advantage of the wonderful and experienced guidance of Dr. Jeff Peterson, and I’m looking forward to it because I’ll get to be a student of teaching the text.
Nora: What is your favorite book outside of the ones that you teach in the classroom?
Anna: Oh no. I don’t honestly I don’t have a favorite book. I’ve never had one. I have a favorite type of book, which is usually anything about mothers and daughters and spans generations, and anything that fits that bill is exciting to me.
Celia: What’s your favorite grade level to teach, and why?
Anna: I have taught college first-years before. That was my teaching position before coming to College Prep, and I’ve found that the seminar level, so eleventh and twelfth graders, is not terribly different from college first-years. There is not that big of an age difference, though I can say I definitely prefer high school students over college students. I’ve never taught students as young as ninth graders before, so I’m still getting used to that, but if I could choose between high school students and college students, obviously I would choose high school students and I plan to stick by that decision for the rest of my career.
Nora: Did you always know you wanted to teach? What made you want to become an English teacher?
Anna: I haven’t always known I wanted to teach, though I did grow up with an educator for a mother. I think I decided in one of my classrooms early in my undergraduate career when I realized that I was paying more attention to the way my teacher was teaching the material than I was to what I was actually learning, and I just kind of went from there. I’ve known I wanted to teach for a long time, and I decided to teach English because it’s something that I have always personally enjoyed so it’s a treat to get to talk about it all day with students. I also like that English classrooms allow for really conversational, collaborative environments.
Celia: Who is one of your biggest role models?
Anna: My little sister. She is a decade younger than me, and she’s a junior in high school. She is a role model for me because I see her consistently learning lessons about getting to know herself and getting to know the world at her age that I am still figuring out at my age, so I am impressed with her and her maturity and openness.
Nora: What is the most important lesson you have taken away from quarantine?
Anna: Communication is key until it isn’t. My partner and I have spent quite a long time sort of trapped in the same rooms together: at one point with his parents, at one point with my parents, a few different times on our own. We’ve moved a lot during the lockdown, and as an English major, I can be overly communicative. I like my words, but when you’re stuck with someone day in and day out all the time sometimes you don’t need to talk about things and you can just let them go. I think that everyone stuck at home with their families all the time has learned that not everything needs to be talked about from every angle.
Celia: Where did you grow up and how do you think it influenced you?
Anna: I grew up in a small town in Northern California called Mount Shasta. It has a population of about 3,500 people in the middle of the mountains in the middle of the woods in the middle of nowhere. And it has influenced me in a lot of ways. Currently I am being reminded of how it has influenced the fact that I can’t find my way around a city to save my life. Every building looks the same, and I always forget to take note of street names. If I don’t have landmarks, Oh, there's the lake and there's the big mountain range; I have no idea where I’m going ever.
Nora: What are some things you like to do outside of teaching?
Anna: I like to spend time outdoors as far away into the woods as I can get, usually with my dog, and I like to cook for the people I love.