The 2020-2021 Excellence in Teaching Master’s Level Award winner is Emilie Schiess.  She is a master’s student in the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and Linguistics program.

Dr. Jennifer Grouling  nominated Emilie, and she said this about her: “Emilie is an adaptable and innovative teacher who others in the Writing Program rely on for her strong leadership.  As Assistant Director of the Writing Program, Emilie is a mentor for other graduate students teaching writing. She holds online grading sessions for TAs to gather and talk about their grading. She has also used her organizational and design skills to create resources for TAs that will last long beyond her time at Ball State. For example, she created a program-wide newsletter and a new hyflex/online teaching guide. What makes Emilie’s teaching truly innovative is her own adaptability to different students and situations. For example, she uses amazing visuals on her assignments and slides to invite different types of learners into her classroom.

She also breaks down difficult tasks in manageable ways for first-year students. Emilie is the type of teacher you can trust to step up and get done what needs to be done and to do it well. When a professor passed away suddenly in November, I had no doubt about having Emilie step in to teach one of his courses. She handled this situation with great care, balancing the needs of the students for flexibility with the need to meet the course goals. We don’t know what we’ll do without her when she graduates!”

Here is a Q & A with Emilie.

Emilie Schiess

What is your teaching philosophy?

  • The major tenets of my philosophy are a holistic mindset, experience-based learning, and authenticity. I understand that my students come from different backgrounds and have different skills and knowledge; a holistic mindset means I respect these differences and recognize my role in integrating them in student writing. For example, my classroom can include nontraditional students who have a gap between their secondary and post-secondary education. This will affect their knowledge of citation styles, databases, and the rigor of  academic writing. As the instructor, I must address this gap with instruction and integrate the knowledge they do have rather than punish them for a disadvantage. For grading, this looks like individualized feedback, valuing revision, and using a mixture of contract grading and holistic rubrics. It is important to me that my teaching is equitable and fair.
  •  For experience-based learning and authenticity, I know students learn best when there is a level of affective value. I develop this with experiences where students apply or investigate course content in order to build confidence and a deeper understanding. My favorite activities are when students do field research. Before COVID, I have had students perform observations at the Rec and do artifact analysis with TikTok. Last semester, my students practiced writing interview questions by remotely interviewing a perfusionist and a vice president of marketing. My class had a lot of science and communication students, so interviewing these people allowed them to connect content to their career interests.
  • I establish authenticity by showing students my own work and process, supporting their identity development in their career or personal interests, and framing most assignments as they would appear outside the classroom. I want students to create pieces they feel could be published or are a mark of their best work. Overall, my philosophy is centered on the student getting the most out of my class.

What courses have you taught here at Ball State?

 I have taught ENG103: Rhetoric & Composition and ENG104: Composing Research. These are the two primary first-year composition courses in the English department’s Writing Program.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

 I enjoy reading my students’ work and learning from them the most. I try to assign writing that I want to read, so I honestly look forward to my students’ discussion board posts and essay drafts. I gain so much from their work! I have learned so much about architecture, nursing, psychology, politics, and more. I also enjoy the creativity of teaching. When students struggle with a concept or task, I see it as a problem-solving opportunity. I like the challenge of improving my instruction: how can I make this concept more clear? What metaphor can I use to better convey this concept? What resource or task can support their understanding? My students inspire me, and teaching is my creative outlet.

What brought you to Ball State University?

 In both my M.A. and B.S. at Ball State, I have felt comfortable and supported. This is because my siblings previously attended Ball State; I knew the campus and felt like I would fit in. During my undergraduate program, I felt that I connected well with my professors, especially those in the English department. They were the ones that supported my creativity like with my Honors’ thesis and lessons in practicum. I wanted to continue my education alongside instructors that were invested in my education and success. The English department has provided me great opportunities to develop and work in my field as well as engage me critically with the content. I feel I am getting the best education possible here for my field and research interests.

Anything else you would like us to know?

 I would like to thank those who have helped me be a good teacher. This includes Dr. Jennifer Grouling-Snider, the Director of the Writing Program. Her support, guidance, and encouragement have motivated me to strive for authentic and quality teaching. I also would like to thank Dr. Laura Romano, my mentor as a Teaching Assistant. Her mentorship and classroom helped inspire me to be creative and follow a practice of care with students. Finally, my peers in the Writing Program have always been there with me to brainstorm ideas and tackle concerns. I know I couldn’t be this type of teacher, especially one during COVID, without their support.

What are your future goals/career goals?

 I plan to teach at the college level and pursue a PhD. In my M.A. program, I have developed a strong appreciation for research. I intend to continue contributing to the field with my own research on developing anti-racist assessment, integrating linguistics into instruction, and addressing student needs like procrastination or writing anxiety from a lens of care. I hope to not only help students as an instructor, but also improve and support other instructors with my research, mentorship, or collaboration.

What is next for you after you graduate from Ball State?:

 I am currently applying for teaching and advising positions at the college level. I also am planning to present my research at several conferences.