Sixteen years ago this fall, I started my first teaching job at CCC-Hastings. I was a newlywed and a fresh-out-the-grad-school-gate baby teacher, 24 years old and ready to take on the world. Just kidding; I was not exactly terrified, but was pretty darn green having only taught two whopping classes ever at UNL prior to taking on a full teaching load with not just “typical” undergrads but also a heavy dose of non-traditional students, too. It was a lot, but I had some excellent mentors who guided me with pedagogy and developing who and how I was/wanted to be in the classroom as a college teacher.
During my first two years of full-time teaching, I started another degree program, this time through UNK, to get my Nebraska Teaching Certificate. I had no idea before grad school and the subsequent job application process that college instructors need to have at least a Masters in their subject matter but aren’t required to have a teaching degree as well. That explained a few things about my own undergrad experience (in which the instructors were SO smart but lacked a wee bit in classroom presentation/people skills); I knew I wanted to know more about how to teach than just what I was teaching.
As you may well know, to complete a teaching degree, you must student teach. Same applied to me, even though I was already teaching college full time by then, so I made a big change during my third professional year and moved from the college to a small public school north of Grand Island in Palmer, NE through UNK’s program called Transition to Teaching. Because Palmer needed a classroom teacher and I needed a place to student teach, I was fortunate enough to get paid to “student” teach there. I did not do the traditional work under a classroom teacher but instead had my own classroom there for the entire school year. And because the town and school were tiny, I was one of two English teachers in the whole 7-12 district. I was also the head librarian at the school and the Yearbook Advisor, because, why not, right?!
During that year I again learned a ton. I also learned that I was pregnant for the first time (a challenge when you have to drive over 50 minutes just to get to work in the morning and have some lovely morning sickness happening for month after month). So while I finished my year at Palmer and earned my secondary teaching certificate, I did not put it or any other degrees to use for a while after that. Instead, I learned how to be a mom to Harrison who arrived in July, 2009.
By fall 2010, I was ready to venture back to the classroom but once again in a new capacity – as an adjunct in the CCC-Hastings English Department. I loved being a stay-at-home-mom but in addition to needing some extra income to supplement Ben’s own teaching salary, I also wanted to get out and be in the world a bit, and teaching college classes at nights (and during the summer when Ben was home) provided the perfect outlet for me.
The on-again/off-again life of an adjunct (they only call when they have enough enrollment that they need you) worked really well for many years to follow as I continued to get pregnant with Baby Number Two, Three, Four, and Five. Some semesters I took off entirely. Others, they didn’t need me. Some I just couldn’t do because of when a due date was set to land. But overall, teaching part-time was exactly the answer for how to have the best of both working and stay-at-home worlds.
After Wilson was born in 2017, I met a friend who later was thrilled to find out that I was an English adjunct because her job literally involves finding adjuncts to cover a wide variety of classes at Bellevue University in Omaha, NE, including for their ever-growing English Department. Funny how the world works that way sometimes.
This fall, 2022, I am starting my fifth year with BU. However, the difference with them to my prior adjuncting is two-fold: 1) they run on a quarter system which means four terms during the year instead of two semesters and some summer sessions, and 2) everything I teach for them is online. This meant when the world ground to a halt in March, 2020, I was already up and running with online, asynchronous teaching and didn’t have to make any adjustments to my platform or teaching delivery as so many others did during the pandemic.
The transition to online teaching has worked well for me in that it allows me to work with my students and their assignments/discussion boards/essays on my own time, not at a set time each week. As my kids have gotten older and have more going on at night, I’m grateful to still be teaching but not in a way that keeps me from attending their activities, concerts, etc. that are forever popping up on our calendar.
In a slight twist, I’m entering Fall 2022 with a new hat (literally; see picture/figuratively; keep reading): I am teaching online for BOTH CCC and BU for the first time. I’ve never taught online for CCC at all but again, am glad to offer another class on my schedule and in a way that I can work around my family and our family time.
I know some people may think that adjuncts don’t take their teaching as seriously as full-time faculty, but I promise you, there are those of us who very much do; folks like me want to see our students succeed and feel great compassion for them as they juggle all the things like taking classes, working full-time jobs, and raising their families. In many ways, I’m doing the exact same circus act so I really understand the effort it takes to make education a priority in the midst of all other facets of life. And while my career has taken a rather meandering and yet circular path to land me at this particular moment of dual institution teaching, I’m grateful for it in all forms.