Blue Bell, PA — Prior to fall 2015, Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) student Tyler Bend didn’t consider a career in writing. But after that semester, Bend, who says “writing’s never been my strong suit,” did an about-face.
His inclusion in a student writing showcase for developmental English classes changed his mind—and his career choice. Bend was one of 20 students in ENG 010, ENG 011 and Gateway to College courses whose work was published in a book and included on an MCCC faculty webpage. Students were recognized for their efforts and awarded a $25 gift cards to the campus bookstores.
“I really don’t care about the prize money, it’s that I’m getting noticed for a writing piece,” Bend said. “I’m just glad that I got my name publicized.”
Assistant Professor of English Thea Howey authored the student showcase idea. Howey put in the legwork for approval of a Faculty Diversity Initiative Support Grant.
From there, she enlisted help from MCCC professors teaching developmental English courses. Faculty submitted what they felt were their students’ best writings, which amounted to more than 90 pages of material.
“We took a vote. People came with their preferences,” she said. “We had very little trouble choosing what we considered to be representative essays.”
The effort, which began during the fall 2015 semester, culminated with an awards ceremony in the spring. Howey said she hopes to continue the showcase bi-annually to celebrate and inspire students.
“The students in developmental courses are usually somewhat unhappy that they’re in a developmental course. They’re not getting college credit for it, and it’s costing them money,” Howey said. “I wanted to motivate my students to excel and I wanted to affirm them in their efforts. I felt the best way to do this is to publish their work on a website and to publish their work in a booklet, something they could actually hold in their hands and show to the world.”
Dean of Arts and Humanities Michele Cuomo applauded Howey’s effort as a way to “change the conversation” about developmental students.
“Presenting work publicly is usually something that graduate students do, that seniors at a university do,” Cuomo said. “It gives the students a sense of confidence and helps them recognize that ‘yes, I do belong here.’”
Between 10 to 15 percent of MCCC students take developmental English courses each semester, according to Cuomo. Going beyond assignments, as the showcase does, is important for students’ academic development and success.
“When expectations are high, students rise to the occasion,” Cuomo said. “It’s just great teaching practice to expect a lot from students, whether or not they have yet to place at the college level.”
Student Telynn Shields, whose essay “Gender Values in Elektra” was included, agreed that the showcase helped to bring out the best in student writing.
“It inspires us to work harder than ever and to put in more time and effort into our work,” Shields said. “It really shows.”