Blockbuster action movies aren’t usually described as “thought provoking.” But to Joe, people can always walk out of a theater with something to contemplate – even if they just watched giant robots battling for world supremacy.
“Even with big Hollywood films, there’s something happening underneath,” he says. “People assume we go to the movies to be passive onlookers, but films and books can start discussions – they can reflect what’s happening in our society.”
As an associate professor of English at Delta College, Joe often connects his lessons in literature, composition and other areas to the cinema and writing of today – even in genres such as horror or comedy. This gives his students a more personal and memorable connection to what they’re learning.
“When I’m teaching, I reference stories that raise questions about the world in which students live, or about our history,” he says. “It helps us see things through a different lens, rather than consuming things just for entertainment.”
"I reference stories that raise questions about the world in which students live, or about our history. It helps us see things through a different lens, rather than consuming things just for entertainment."
Joe credits his freedom to get creative with his teaching to the environment at Delta College, where he and his colleagues are able to try new things and work with each other to improve their courses. He also values the way Delta’s scheduling flexibility and smaller class sizes allow him to work one-on-one with students, giving them a more personalized education.
But even before he began teaching, Joe knew what was special about Delta, thanks to his personal experience with the school as a student.
“I dual-enrolled at Delta while I attended Arthur Hill High School in Saginaw,” Joe says. “Even with all of my travel and experience attending universities in Virginia and New York, I still had this desire to come back to Delta College and teach. I wanted to ‘close that circle,’ to give back.”
Now that he’s returned to Delta, Joe is part of what he calls an “evolving school,” where he leads standard classroom courses as well as online classes and study-abroad programs. He’s also teaching a subject area he’s passionate about, helping to instill a love of language in his students and an appreciation for literature and film – all of which he believes will help them in their careers and communities.
“Writing skills, and understanding the language associated with a profession, will help anyone in life,” Joe says. “No matter how much technology changes the way we communicate, we’re never going to get away from writing. You’ll always need to write a résumé, for example.”
Popular culture has given Joe a gateway to making important literary concepts more interesting to students. But his encyclopedic knowledge of movies and books has presented one problem: picking his favorites.
“Oh, man, that’s a tough question,” Joe laughs. “It depends on how obscure or mainstream I should get when I’m deciding!”
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