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Jenny Pennington

Marion, VA

Education: BS & MS in English from Radford University

I currently teach five sections of a two-for-one combination of Advanced Placement and Dual Credit English at Marion Senior High School in southwest Virginia. I began teaching there in Fall 2008 after teaching part-time for four years at Southwest Virginia Community College in Richlands, VA. I'd lived in Richlands all my life until I married and moved to Marion and was in need of full-time employment close to my new home. As much as I love and adhere to the community college vision, I am adapting to the high school setting, aided by teaching higher level courses that feel familiar to my prior experience. Since my background is entirely in English, I just started taking education courses to fulfill requirements of a provisional license for MSHS. In my spare time, I predictably still enjoy many English-related activities such as reading, writing poetry and fiction, and relishing every minute partaking of my Netflix subscription. My husband Zac and I have a two year old mutt, Buddy, who mostly resembles a black and tan hound, and a year and a half old weimaraner named Tess, who is a new and rambunctious addition to our family. Zac is a firefighter with the Forest Service, so I spend a lot of time with my heart in my throat when he is traveling and being modest about his bravery.

My teaching philosophy is lifted from a quote I place at the top of each course syllabus I distribute: Everybody is important and has something important to say. I was a very quiet, reserved student who kept thoughts to herself while others offered opinions and asked questions. I notice that quality in some of my students and try to gently coax comments from them through acknowledging strong insights in their written work as well as through what I know of their personal background that may relate to what we're reading and be appropriate to mention in class. I subscribe to the expressivist pedagogy in my teaching, always striving for the creative approach, and find that using the dialectic method to help students think for themselves and then reinforcing those thoughts through the didactic method works easily and well in an English course. I've tried many different setups for classrooms such as a circle vs rows, I've written teaching philosophy statements numerous times, and the one constant, the one thing that always "works" is that old cliche about change. Teachers have to adapt to each new class and its personality as much as they adapt to us. That doesn't mean reworking every plan and belief about teaching each semester or year. It means being flexible--that, I have found, is the key. I can still be me but let the students be themselves as well. I find it refreshing that I learn things from them too, whether it's a new insight into a story or how today's student is different from those in the past. I've taught for six years, with two of those years as a Graduate Teaching Fellow at Radford University. Now, in the middle of my seventh year, I've forgotten names and what semester I had which student, but the one thing I never forget is respect them and they'll respect you. Listen to them and they'll listen to you. Believe in them so they'll keep believing in themselves. Of course, it can't and won't all be pleasant. In all honesty, some students I don't like and clearly some don't like me, but it is true that love of my subject keeps me going and those few students each course who register that "aha" look on their faces make it worth it. I didn't feel called to teaching and didn't grow up wanting to teach. I love English and teaching is a regular outlet to indulge. What's great is finding students who love it too.