In our final post about the 2013 Outstanding Faculty Awards, we spoke to Dr. Darolyn Jones about her Excellence in Teaching Award. Students nominate professors for the Excellence in Teaching Award, and the faculty members with the most votes are invited to submit course enhancement proposals. A committee composed of faculty and students selects the winners.
Dr. Jones earned the award for her work on leading the first issue of “Rethinking Children’s Literature: Read for Change.” The free app is available on both Apple tablets and Android tablets.
Learn more about Dr. Jones’ award below by reading the interview conducted by English department intern Daniel Brount. To read about the other award winners, read the posts on Dr. Susanna Benko and Dr. Matt Mullins.
1) Can you tell me a little bit about your career as a professor, such as where you’ve worked before and how long you’ve been working here?
I’ve been teaching for 22 years, and I was a K through 12, junior high and high school English and German teacher for 12 years. I was the department chair and in charge of professional leadership development for teachers. I left and became a literary consultant, and taught teachers about reading and writing in the classroom for 7 years. Along with consulting and teaching here, for the last 9 years, I’ve been working at the Indiana Writers Center, a non-for-profit literary arts community, as education outreach director. We take writing out of the center to teach writing and reading and to get people who wouldn’t normally consider themselves writers to write. I still keep my feet in English Ed, with a strong emphasis in writing and community writing. I finished my doctorate in 2011. I wasn’t sure I’d teach higher education. I taught here for two years as a graduate assistant and teaching fellow. Now I’ve been here as a faculty member for three years. During my consulting years, I also taught at IUPUI’s weekend college. Again, I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it to be honest. I was fortunate there was a position here, and now that I am here, I really love it. I am a writer; I’ve had two successful editions of an educational book published and have been the lead editor on four collections of memoir. That makes me a jack-of-all-trades. I’m not pure English, lit, or comp. I have three different degrees, so I’m all over the place. That’s one of the things that makes me successful in the classroom, because students have all different needs.
I had no desire to ever be a teacher. That was the last thing on my list. I did very well in my undergrad, and I tutored students. And I loved it. I would spend hours creating these sorts of lesson plans to help the kid I was tutoring in psychology, or biology, and even math and trying to make sense of what they’d understand. So I decided to get into teaching, but I didn’t know what to teach. I loved every topic I encountered, and ultimately I landed on English because you can tie every discipline together with a word. I can still talk about politics, and ethics, and everything with a book. We can write about that. I decided that it was the access to the individual word that would allow me to bring the world and individual reading to the students. That’s why I teach English, to help students read the world.
2) How did you feel when you heard you had been selected to receive the award?
I was blown away. People are here for years and years, so to be here for three years and get nominated and win, I was like “wow.” The first year I was here, they talked about that award, and I looked at my husband and said, “I want to win that.” And I think that’s how I started out. I didn’t think that would really happen, because Ball State is a teaching college and we’re all really great teachers. I didn’t think I’d get it so soon. I was the first person in my family to graduate from college. I wanted to go to college, get my doctorate, write a book, win teacher of the year. Now I want to have a TED Talk. I’m going to keep at it; I think anything’s possible.
3) Is there anything else you’d like to tell me about the award or your career?
I really believe that we are here for students. And I think in K-12, we love students and then we love our content. We love our students, we love teaching, and we love our content in that order. I think in higher ed, it’s the opposite order, and I would like to see that flipped. I still teach university students like I taught junior high and high school students. I nag them, I email them, I set up extra help and tutoring sessions, and I ask them what’s wrong. I think people can recognize me because those kind of acts. And I don’t want to stereotype or generalize, but I think in general, that’s the difference. I think we have to remember we’re at the university because of students, so that should be our first priority. But that’s always my first order of business: my time for them and giving feedback. Time leftover goes to the other stuff. For me, primarily working with teachers, it’s critical that I practice what I preach. I believe they see it; I see the reciprocity. If they see me that way, they’ll do that someday. It’s hard to respect people who don’t do that.
Besides the excellence in teaching award, I also won the Ball State Accessible Faculty of the Year Award. I was recognized as being the most accessible member. It’s really special to me because I have a son with a disability and because at Ball State, we are proud to serve over 600 students with identified disabilities.