Mason and Northern Virginia Community College host summer institute for new and aspiring English teachers

by Melanie O'Brien

Mason and Northern Virginia Community College host summer institute for new and aspiring English teachers
Tonya Doane, director of Student Success at Bennett College and John Modica, doctoral candidate in English at the University of Virginia, present at the MLA Summer Institute at George Mason University’s Fairfax Campus.

New and aspiring English teachers had the opportunity to collaborate and gain deeper insights about best teaching practices at the Modern Language Association Institute, held this summer at George Mason University’s Fairfax Campus. The five-day workshop, designed to strengthen the teaching of reading and writing at community colleges and other colleges that prioritize access over selectivity in admissions, was a joint venture of Mason’s Northern Virginia Writing Project and Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC).

Fifteen participants from Mason, NVCC, and other community colleges and technical schools across the country attended the event, which was funded by the Modern Language Association and Mason’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences. 

“The summer institute aligns really well with Mason’s history of pulling together writers and teachers to improve writing across the region,” said Tamara Harvey, associate professor of English and chair of the Department of English. “We are a natural place for that because of our partnerships with Northern Virginia Community College and regional high schools. A lot of our students go on to teach in these places.” 

Participants engaged in discussions about strategies for teaching reading, crafting effective responses to student writing, and devising a reading curriculum. Graduate Research Assistant Kathryn Casey (MA Cultural Studies ’23) organized logistics for the event and presented a seminar. She said she was inspired by the outcome. “At a minimum, we wanted every educator to walk away with a writing assignment that would benefit their students,” she said. “What we got was so much more—it went beyond our expectations in terms of collaboration.”  

Olivia Ghafoerkhan, adjunct faculty in the Department of English who participated in the workshop, said she has already made some changes to her upcoming course using insights she gained. “The institute was a wonderful experience, and a great opportunity to connect with other college instructors. I'm always looking for opportunities to learn and grow as a teacher, and this was definitely one of the better opportunities I've had,” she said. 

The institute was planned and facilitated by Leslie Goetsch, term assistant professor of English at Mason and director of the Northern Virginia Writing Project, and Chris Kervina (Ph.D. Writing and Rhetoric ’23), associate professor of English at NVCC, Manassas. They added a distinguishing focus on transparency in learning and teaching to the workshop’s curriculum. Following the event, Kervina emphasized the importance giving English instructors time to think about how and why they teach reading and writing and consult with others in their field. “The chance to work with people who are in a similar position is incredibly valuable,” she said.