My teaching philosophy is based on my belief that we learn by doing. This has proven most effective in the teaching of writing. We become good writers by reading, analyzing, and imitating in our own distinctive way. To communicate this view to my students, I practice a subjective approach to Composition derived in part from the Reader Response Theory. In adapting this approach, I am able to have each student leave my class with the ability to read, write, and think critically; thus, arming them with the skills to succeed within academia and the professional world.
As a teacher, my first priority is to create a productive atmosphere in my classroom; a safety zone where students feel welcome to share their views and be respected as valuable members of the academy. I make all my classrooms into a collaborative environment where students can confer and reinforce one another in a positive but, also provocative manner. In most freshmen classes students come from a variety of academic backgrounds and levels. By encouraging students to work as a collaborative, the classroom becomes a place where their educational differences mesh and become a plethora of knowledge from which each student can learn. It also allows me to equally distribute my intended focus on the skills I want them to learn: critical thinking, reading, and writing.
Experience has taught me that the best way to teach Composition is as a process, where students continually write, revise, and rewrite. I request substantial amounts of student writing, both in preparation for and during class. I use response papers, free writing, and multiple drafts to encourage ways of reflecting upon texts and ideas. Through interrelated assignments and revisions, I allow students to rework their own arguments and improve their writing skills. I also have students peer edit papers as well as meet with me individually as a way to guide them through the writing process. Then, lastly, I have students complete a self-evaluation, which I develop, of their own writing process.
I use similar techniques when teaching creative writing. Through various written exercises, students create 3-dimensional complex characters, realistic situations, and poetic images. I assign readings that show artistic writing techniques and give students tools to read as writers. The workshop is vital to the creative writing process. While participating in these workshops, I encourage students to give and, more importantly, accept constructive criticism.
When teaching Creative Writing, I have learned that a collaborative environment is essential to successful courses. To create this environment, I offer writing workshops and peer editing of first drafts. This environment also enables students to defend their own writing and positions in discussions. This collaborative learning process orientated approach teaches students to give and receive constructive criticism and allows them to take advantage of the critical abilities and varied interpretive approaches of their fellow classmates in making their own composition decisions. Creating this environment allows me to teach various ways of acquiring, analyzing, and evaluating information in the three subject areas I teach.
However, there is more to teaching than creating an environment. Each course has its own set of skills that need to be taught. In my approach to instructing literature, I encourage in-class group work or student-driven discussions with each assignment. I prefer student-led discussions where I act as a facilitator and, provide a brief historical and social overview and then pose questions. I encourage and challenge students to discuss and analyze while maintaining the use of the text as a support. I direct the course of discussion and at the same time challenge students’ assertions and assumptions in context with the reading. My goal is to encourage students to learn how to question their own writing in addition to the text. Students, therefore, develop new ways of interpretation and learn how to generate and defend their own understanding of the literature.
It is always my goal to teach students to read closely, analyze, and interpret as a scholar. I encourage students to abandon the logic that reading is a burden and to embrace its inherent value. Through a mixture of mini-lectures given by myself, close readings as group assignments, and general class discussions, I introduce the students to important authors and texts within the context of larger literary movements. I often try to make reading assignments as multicultural as possible, introducing students to authors that are not in the Canon. This is beneficial to the student as a whole because they learn about other cultures and different types of writings.
As an instructor and mentor, I have learned that the best teachers are always curious, flexible, and honest. As a teacher, I must be curious about my students, to learn their particular writing and thinking styles. I must be flexible; having the ability to bend, adjust, and sometimes, completely change my lesson plan based on student progress or lack thereof. I want my students to learn life-long skills such as critical thinking, reading analytically, and writing concise scholarly papers. To do this I must be honest with myself as well as my students. I must know when and how to guide them to get the most out of each class and become successful.
I have a heart for student success. I hold a BA in English Literature and a MFA in Creative Writing. I specialize in teaching Composition & Technical Writing while also academically advising First-Generation students. I own DreamWriterInk! Writing & Publishing as well.
Crystal R. Tillman
• 10 years’ experience teaching and mentoring high school and college students
• Creative, versatile, and innovative English Literature and Writing Instructor and Academic Advisor
• Delivers engaging, coherent, and motivating curriculum
• Utilizes learning technology, apps, and social media in the planning and delivery of lectures
• Ability to quickly identify students at academic risk and underachievement; immediately creates individual specific academic improvement plans per student
• Professional writer, editor, and proofreader
Emerson College-Boston, MA
Master of Fine Arts Creative Writing – 2004
Truman State University – Kirksville, MO
Bachelor of Arts - English - 2000
• Minor: African/African American Studies
• Sigma Tau Delta honors
TEACHING & ADVISING EXPERIENCE
Robert Morris University – Illinois Student Support Services (SSS) Illinois July 2012 – November 2017
Academic Advisor-Instructional Focus
• Responsible for teaching Composition and Creative Writing 101 to SSS participants
• Created and developed syllabi, welcoming classroom structure, and maintained consistent student engagement
• Conducted small group and individual graduate school preparation workshops
• Prepared classroom and coursework materials, assignments, and handouts
• Used Google Hangouts, Blackboard, and Facebook to communicate with students
• Instructed and advised 175 students on a quarterly basis
• Designed, created, and proofread: SSS quarterly newsletter, SSS website, SSS Facebook page, student cover letters, resumes, and personal statements for graduate school applications
• Interviewed, trained and supervised 3-4 tutors and Supplemental Instruction Leaders
• Developed and facilitated bi-monthly academic and writing workshops for SSS participants
• Employed appropriate teaching and learning strategies to communicate subject matter to First Generation/Low-Income students
• Researched, wrote, edited and published articles for the Student Support Services quarterly newsletter
Southern Illinois University – Carbondale McNair Scholars Program November 2009- June 2011
GRE Verbal Instructor & Grad School Prep Instructor
• Modeled in-class curriculum after Princeton Review & Barron’s GRE textbooks
• Assessed students’ progress with weekly online quizzes
• Developed graduate school application and prep for graduating McNair Scholars
• Edited and peer-reviewed articles for the McNair Scholars’ Journal
• Taught Developing a Winning Personal Statement
• Edited graduate school applications
• Interviewed, trained and supervised 7-9 Graduate Assistants and 3 tutors
• Organized/delivered classroom lectures to students virtually via Skype
Living Faith Community Church Illinois Second Chance Grant October 2007 – March 2009
GED Instructor/Composition Instructor
• Created true to life curriculum for adult and immigrant students
• Taught developmental reading and writing
• Performed weekly assessments and modified the curriculum based on students’ learning needs
• 80% student success rate
• Taught Basic Life Skills
Chicago State University English Department - Writing Center January 2008-May 2008
• Edited and proofread academic essays from traditional and non-traditional learners
• Tutored students about grammar, sentence structure, and proper citation usage
• 1-on-1 and group tutored English grammar workshops
• Tutored students in person, virtually, and via email
• Accurately recorded student attendance and improvement
Truman State University Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Program September 2003- July 2006
Program Coordinator for the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Program
• Instructed Writing the Personal Statement
• Instructed Grad School Prep 101
• Edited McNair Scholars’ research articles for submission to the McNair Scholars Journal
• Created lesson plans for pre-graduate school college seniors
• Utilized lessons encompassing skill-building activities for scholarship writing, resume writing, professionalism, interviewing etiquette
• Employed kinesthetic, visual, and auditory approaches to make lessons interesting and interactive
• Engaged in cultural immersion programs with students to further augment global understanding
• Performed data analysis for the McNair Annual Performance Report (APR). Used Microsoft Access and Banner to track students’ grades, enrollment, and degree completion
Brandeis University Transitional Year Program (TYP) January 2003- May 2003
Humanities Co-Instructor (Graduate internship)
• Taught Creative Writing to Freshmen and Transfer Bridge students
• Edited and proofread students’ stories and poems for submission
• Created a curriculum with Black literature short stories, MLA citation, and grammar lessons
University Massachusetts- Boston Upward Bound June 2002 – August 2003
English Instructor & Teaching Assistant Supervisor
• Taught standard English Grammar to Boston high school students
• Taught ESL reading and writing to immigrant students
• Instructed Creative Writing Basics for high school students
• Practiced safe classroom management
• Implemented peer mentoring and accountability homework partners
• Created an open safe space for students to learn and question freely
• Edited and proofread students’ rap lyrics, short stories, and poems submissions for publication
• Founder & Editor in Chief at DreamWriterInk! Professional & Academic Writing Services 2014
• Certified ELA Instructor 2017
• State of Illinois Certified Grantwriter 2017
• Dynamics in Teaching at Robert Morris University (Student Instructor) 2016
• Certified Supplemental Instructor & Coordinator 2011
• Sigma Tau Delta Honorary English Society 2000
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