Teaching at a Community College

Lenore Maybaum, PhD
Assistant Professor of English, Kirkwood Community College
PhD Language, Literacy, and Culture, University of Iowa

1) Where do you work now and what do you do there?

I teach full-time as an Assistant Professor of English at Kirkwood Community College. I began as an adjunct back in 2005, the year I started my Ph.D., and I kept a foot in the door for the next few years, before being hired for a tenure-track position while I completed my dissertation. I teach a 5/5 load of first and second-year composition and serve on college committees, such as the Curriculum and Instruction Committee, as well as attend monthly English Department meetings.

2) How do skills or interests from your time as a grad student intersect with your job?

 My M.A. degree is in English, and this concentrated background in my discipline, particularly composition theory and rhetoric, qualified me for the basic requirements of teaching. But it was my interdisciplinary doctoral work in Language, Literacy, and Culture that helped me stand out as a candidate while on the job search for community college positions. Beyond my M.A. studies in Postmodern American poetry and Critical Theory, my Ph.D. course work in writing pedagogy, cultural studies, and the history of schooling in the United States demonstrated my investment in the craft of teaching– and the role of education in shaping a culture. I could speak not only to the ways the humanities increase a capacity for empathy, but also to the transformative, democratizing role of open-door institutional policies, such as those of the community college, as well as to the ways schooling runs the risk of reinscribing social, cultural, and economic hierarchies. And my graduate school education gave substance to those ideas, my scholarly investment in the craft of teaching on equal footing with my scholarly investment in language and literature.
3) What advice do you give for graduate students who want to follow a career path like yours?

 Right now, before you graduate, make connections to the local community college as a graduate student, and consider any local community tutoring opportunities, too.   In years past, at least half of our applicants for tenure-track lines in English possessed a Ph.D. in the humanities, typically English, but also American Studies and Communication Studies, or an M.F.A. in Nonfiction/Fiction. The degree alone will not make you stand out. You must demonstrate a real investment in teaching, particularly to diverse student populations, semesters before applying for a community college position. Similarly, shape your cover letter and c.v. around your background in teaching and pedagogy, not literature and film, or creative publications. A community college English position will be heavily writing-focused, so foreground the teaching of writing over your own publications and literature-focused course work. Finally, and this is important: With a 5/5 load, make sure you find pleasure in teaching if you’re going to do it full-time at a community college.


photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/kirkwoodcommunitycollege