Mel Abela, Kara Kennedy, Dale JacobsTeachers Mel Abela of Tecumseh Vista Academy and Kara Kennedy of Kingsville District High School share a conversation with UWindsor English professor Dale Jacobs.

Colloquium brings together secondary and post-secondary English teachers

A colloquium brought together local high school English teachers and UWindsor faculty to discuss issues of common professional concern, on campus May 23.

The “12U to U Colloquium” provides a place for dialogue among representatives of the University’s English department, the Windsor-Essex public and Catholic school boards.

 “The ultimate aim is to forge a more seamless transition from high school to university for our students,” says organizer Katherine Quinsey, a professor of English and creative writing professor.

“Our specific focus was on the perceptions around career prospects in English, and the pivotal role played by high school English teachers in helping students understand that the transferrable skills of an English degree — research, analysis, language, and writing — are directly applicable to many careers, from law to public relations to video game design, and that these skills are needed today more than ever.”

The teachers heard about the journey to their “dream jobs” taken by three guest panellists — two English alumni and a current student.

Tamara Todorovic (BA 2014), now an attorney with the American Automobile Association of Michigan, recalls that her family wasn’t supportive of her decision to study English and creative writing.

“I am part of an immigrant family. My father and sister are engineers; my mother is an accountant,” she says. “Let your students know that an undergrad degree in English can open doors to many different careers. As a lawyer, most of what I do is write briefs. I appreciate the power of the written word.”

Kirthana Sasitharan (BA 2016), a journalist with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, says her education in English enabled her to carve her own path.

“The most important transferrable skills are critical thinking, writing skills, editing skills,” she says. “I know how to extract the main idea, have the ability to analyze information, compare and contrast.”

Doron DuToit gave up an information technology job in South Africa to study writing. He cites three reasons he chose the University of Windsor: “English majors take creative writing courses for three of four years, the in-depth study of British literature, and Marty Gervais’ editing and publishing practicum.”

Following the presentations, the teachers discussed at their tables new developments in their field, including the rise in the number of parents who insist their children focus on STEM subjects, the growth of e-courses, and that the current generation watches screens rather than reading books.

The colloquium was sponsored by the Office of the Provost and the Department of English and Creative Writing, along with the Greater Essex County District School Board and the Windsor Essex Catholic District School Board.

—Susan McKee