Tag Archives: School

The Great and Powerful Shaz

I’ve been a teacher since 2006 and have had, in that time, about 1,800 students in my classrooms. And yes, they’ve all been wonderful people and I’ve loved them all. But…well, you know…I might have had some favorites over the years.

I know that I’m not supposed to have favorites, but it’s hard not to, especially with the high quality of students that come through my door. And especially when one of those students is the super cute, super smart, super wonderful Shahrazad Sheikhali.

me-and-shaz-in-hallway

How cute and smart and wonderful is she?!

Shaz first became my student in August of 2011 when she enrolled in my Composition 2 class; and I immediately liked her. She was quiet but smart, and she always went the extra mile with her work, her discussions, and with the way she treated her classmates. She was one of my favorites that semester, and it could have ended there.

Shaz, far right -- her first appearance in one of my class photos!

English 152, Fall 2011: Shaz is far right — her first appearance in one of my class photos!

But then — but then! — I learned that she was loved to write! Favorite status imminent! Shaz enrolled in my creative writing class for the next semester…

One damn fine creative writing class!

One damn fine creative writing class!

…and then the next semester she joined Writer’s Block, our campus creative writing club. She quickly became a leader for the group, helping to organize author readings and our Bi-Annual Bad Poetry Contest.

IMG_0971.JPG

Writer’s Block hosts its first reading with author Sasha Dawn

Shaz emcees a Bad Poetry contest

Shaz emcees a Bad Poetry contest

Because of her work in our creative writing class and with the student club, I enlisted her to be one of my student editors for the 2013 issue of Voices, MCC’s literary arts magazine. She did a wonderful job on the issue, and even had one of her own poems published.

Writer's Block celebrates the end of the year and the Voices 2013 issue

Writer’s Block celebrates the end of the year and the Voices 2013 issue

Although Shaz didn’t need to take any more of my classes, we didn’t stop working together. She came to me with an idea for a project we could work on together as part of MCC’s then brand-new Undergraduate Research Scholar Program. She wanted to do some research on the impact of the teacher-student relationship on student success. We collaborated to design objectives and a plan for the semester, and then she set to work. Shaz did a literature review, observed classrooms all over campus, surveyed and interviewed students and professors, and wrote up her report at the end of her project (FYI: a supportive and structured student-teacher relationship has a positive impact on student performance). I was proud to be her mentor throughout the process, and I was even prouder when she told me that she’d be graduating MCC, transferring to Northern Illinois University, and studying to be a teacher. An English teacher! OMG, dream come true. Favorite status achieved!

She invited me to go to with her to NIU’s new student orientation the summer before she enrolled. I hadn’t been to a new student orientation like that since I was starting as an undergraduate myself, and I loved going with Shaz for a tour of the residence halls, the classrooms, the dining hall…everything! We also nerded out in the book store and I came out of it with a number of NIU pens. (I know, surprise, surprise, I bought pens.)

NIU's new student orientation!

NIU’s new student orientation!

I took a lot fewer pictures of Shaz during her time at NIU, primarily because it would have been weird for me to lurk around her classrooms and newspaper meetings and dining hall, snapping photos. (Although, to be honest, I was tempted.) But we kept in touch, got together for coffees and lunches in DeKalb and in Crystal Lake, and she caught me up on all of her cool studenty stuff.

Last year she did an observation at a middle school near her campus, and this semester she was a student teacher in the same school and with the same teacher. It was the last piece of her bachelor’s degree, and I got to see her in action. For my Adolescence in the Schools class at UIC this semester, I needed to observe adolescents in their natural habitat and the write up an ethnography; so I asked Shaz if I could observe her 7th grade class for a couple of hours one afternoon. She and her lead teacher were gracious enough to allow me to observe, and it was so much fun, not only because 7th graders are hilarious and weird and awesome, but because Shaz was great and I loved seeing her teach.

Shaz waits for her students to come back from lunch

Shaz waits for her students to come back from lunch

Shaz the teacher!

Shaz the teacher!

And then she was finished with her NIU coursework, was all set for her endorsements and her degree, and the only thing left for her to do was to graduate. To graduate, omg!

She graduated this past Sunday, and she invited me to the ceremony to sit with her family, which was an honor in itself. Her parents, sisters, and brother had gotten to NIU’s convention center as soon as the doors opened to get some good seats, and they were successful: we were front row, only yards away from where Shaz was seated.

shaz-in-seatimg_0942-1

niu-program

And the ceremony was lovely. NIU’s steel band played “Pomp and Circumstance,” (yes, they have an award-winning steel band and they played all the music and it was surreal because there was a snowstorm outside but tropical music all morning long). The president, during his keynote address, asked the families of the graduates to stand up and be recognized for their support, so the Sheikhalis took a much-deserved bow:

sheikhali-family-stands-up

Oh, just the cutest family ever.

And we watched Shaz walk up to receive her diploma, and we were all smiling so hard our faces almost fell off of our heads.

After the ceremony, we gathered with the other few hundred graduates and their accompanying thousands of family members in the convention center’s lobby to take some photos.

the-sheikhali-women

Shaz, her sisters, and her mother

sheikhali-family

Shaz, her sisters, and her cousin

Me and my favorite Shaz!

Me and my favorite Shaz!

All of it made me so happy and proud and bursting with smiles and hugs. Shaz has already gotten a job at a high school in the district where she did her student teaching, and she’ll start next fall. I’m so proud of how hard she’s worked and I’m honored to have been a part of her academic career.

I’m sure Shaz will be a part of my life for many years to come, and I know that although I’ll still have favorite students, I won’t have another one like her. Good luck, Shaz! You’re going to go so far!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Advertisements

McHenry County College Goes Dutch

The Dutch are here!

Last week I wrote about the visiting Dutch scholar I’m hosting for the rest of the month. Through our exchange program, I’ll be visiting the Netherlands in May, but for now, my guest, Noemi, and the other six visitors are here, and they’ve been having a lot of fun so far.

They all arrived on Saturday morning, and four of us hosts went to O’Hare to pick them up. They got through customs easily, with the exception of Jacqueline, who declared the dog biscuits she’d brought as a gift for her host’s dog.

airport-pickup

From Left: Anja, Noëmi, Rianne, Esther, and my fellow host, Lori–Rianne holds Jacqueline’s sign as we wait for her to get through customs

Once we got the whole group, the four above, Jacqueline, Patrick, and Frank, we headed back to Crystal Lake and our respective homes so our guests could relax for a bit and get over their jet-lag. Noëmi and I spent our evening eating pizza and talking about our respective colleges while Roo showed Noëmi every single toy she had, and Noëmi politely told her that she wasn’t interested in Roo’s sharpened bones. No, dank je.

On Sunday a group of us walked around Crystal Lake for a bit of fresh air and exercise…

lori-the-tour-guide

Lori explains that Crystal Lake was almost the site of the Olympic rowing competition

…and then that evening, Noëmi and I headed to her house for a potluck party at Lori’s with everyone. But, before we left for the potluck — like, minutes before — as I picked up the casserole dish that was housing my homemade macaroni and cheese that I was bringing to the potluck, this happened:

Oh, sad, sad macaroni and cheese.

Oh, sad, sad macaroni and cheese.

Yes, as the hot dish hit my fingers through the dish cloth I was using as a hot-mitt, I shifted my fingers quickly and dropped the casserole. The dish shattered, and macaroni and cheese was ruined on the floor, and Roo was very anxious to help me clean up.

So, we brought beer to the potluck instead, which was appreciated in a different way, and everyone had a great time.

Monday, Noëmi got to observe her first English class here at the college, and Anja joined her. It was my friend Robert’s class, and he was starting a new topic for a research paper, so Noëmi and Anja got to see how he introduced new materials and explained an assignment.

Anja, Robert, and Noëmi

Anja, Robert, and Noëmi

The visitors all got to take a tour of the campus, and had lunch with our president, Dr. Clint Gabbard, as well, but they wanted to do a bit of exploring in downtown Crystal Lake, so Lori and I took them for a coffee and a walk-around to some of the shops.

Rianne, Noëmi, Anja, and Lori at the cupcake shop

Rianne, Noëmi, Anja, and Lori at the cupcake shop

Books!

Books!

Even more books!

Even more books!

ALL THE BOOKS!

ALL THE BOOKS!

chocolate-frogs

Chocolate frogs at Riverside Candy Shop

riverside-candy

They appreciated the candy shop, but were tired by this time they were a bit worn down, so Noëmi and I headed home to rest. She is a fan of The Walking Dead, and since Season 6 was only just released this past weekend on the Netherlands’ Netflix, she hasn’t had a chance to watch it. So she told her boyfriend, Dave, to watch it back home without her and she and I would watch it this week to catch us up before the Season 7 premiere this Sunday. Needless to say, Monday evening was spent watching a bunch of The Walking Dead. Since I am kind of a fan of the show, and a good host, I felt obligated to watch them with her.

Tuesday, the group went on a neighborhood tour of Chicago led by my colleague and Instructor of Sociology, Mark. Noëmi took a lot of pictures, but I headed to the city myself for my Tuesday afternoon class. No pictures of my class were taken, but check out Noëmi’s blog for some of her Chicago pics.

The group before they left for the city

The group before they left for the city. Roo tried to sneak on the bus, but she was discovered and kicked off. 

On Wednesday, Noëmi got to observe two more classes…

Noëmi in Anne's class

Noëmi in Anne’s class on Wednesday

noemi-in-class

Noëmi chats with Anja and Robert on Monday; Noëmi visits Ted’s class

…and then, yesterday afternoon, the college hosted an open house to meet all of the visitors. And there was ice cream.

ice-cream-social

ron-anja-and-mike

Ron, Anja, and Mike

tim-amy-timothy-and-frank

Frank has got Timothy, Amy, and Tim on the edges of their seats!

juletta-and-noemi

Noëmi and Juletta

lindsay-and-patrick-compare-phones

Lindsay and Patrick, exchanging pictures

lisa-jacqueline-and-eli

Lisa and Eli welcome Jacqueline to the U.S.A.!

Last night after a full day, Noëmi and I went home to cook some chili for dinner, and then watched the presidential debate with Trevor.

Today, I’m bringing her into the city with me for my Thursday night graduate class, and first we’ll stop by Millennium Park to see the Bean. We’ll have more pictures, so check in later on this week to get updates!

Goede nacht, Dutch readers!

The Dutch Are Coming!

For years, my college has been a member of the Illinois Consortium for International Studies and Programs (ICISP), which is the organization we partner with for our study abroad programs (for our students to study overseas) and scholar exchange programs (for our faculty to visit colleges and universities in Europe, the U.K., and China for professional development).

Usually, our college has the budget to fund one or two faculty in a two-way exchange — where one McHenry County College faculty member hosts an international faculty member for two weeks, and then the MCC faculty member travels to the host’s country to stay with her for two weeks. A couple of our faculty members had applied for the program last autumn, had been accepted, and they were all set.

But, as many of you know, the Illinois budget crisis forced a lot of colleges to cut programming, cut jobs, and to enact their own internal budget freezes, which affected travel. A number of colleges in Illinois that had planned to participate in this year’s scholar exchange with the Netherlands had to pull out of the program, leaving about thirty Dutch professors in need of places to stay. Our Chair of International Studies and ICISP liaison got approval for an unlimited number of our college employees to be hosts in a one-way capacity — to host a Dutch professor but not to travel to Holland — and one additional two-way participant.

And guess who applied and was accepted to host and to travel?

Yep! This weirdo is going to Holland!

Yep! This weirdo is going to Holland!

Yahoo! So this month I’m hosting a professor of English from the Netherlands named Noëmi, and in May, just after my spring semester ends, I’ll go to stay with her for a couple of weeks!

I AM VERY EXCITED.

Noëmi (pronounced no-Amy) teaches English at Summa College in Eindhoven. She has two cats, she ran a 10K last weekend, she and her partner are buying their first house and moving next month, and she is smart and super cool.

This is Noemi!

This is Noëmi!

There are seven Dutch professors visiting my college, and others coming and staying with hosts from other Chicagoland colleges. Our liaison put together a schedule for everyone to show them off to the community, and I’ve worked on getting Noëmi into as many of my English department colleague’s classrooms as possible. She’s also going to come with me to classes at UIC, Trevor and I are taking her to see a David Sedaris reading here in Crystal Lake, we’re bringing her with us on our annual Power Family Sonny Acres trip, and I’m going to get us tickets for a play in the city. I have about one million other things I want her to do but I’m worried I’ll overwhelm her, so the rest of the trip we might play by ear. I guess she’ll have to sleep at some point, right?

I’ve been trying to prep everything in the house so we’re all ready for her arrival tomorrow (tomorrow! OMG!), though Roo has been zero help and instead of straightening or going grocery shopping for me, she’s been staring out the window, yawning, and scratching. Useless.

Hi, I'm Roo. Do you need me to do NOTHING AT ALL? Okay.

Hi, I’m Roo. Do you need me to do NOTHING AT ALL? Okay.

A few of us are going to pick up the visitors at O’Hare tomorrow, and they will be greeted with signs and probably some donuts. Trevor is out of town until Sunday for a photo shoot in Dallas, so she will have to be okay with a me-and-Roo welcome committee. I’m going to remind Roo not to jump on her, not to jab her fat head into Noëmi’s torso, and not to leave her shiv-bones around where we can step on them. We’ll see how it goes; I have low expectations.

I’ll be updating the blog throughout her visit, so you can see what hijinks we get up to, and if I’m lucky, I’ll convince her to write a guest post for the blog. Fingers crossed!

welcome-noemi

First run sign with a failed border

Save

Save

Save

Save