The lights come up on a terrible scene of a great tempest, or more accurately on A Tempest, the contemporary play by Aimé Cesaire that responds to Shakespeare’s classic play The Tempest. A class of English 150 Intro to Literature were ready to act out the play they had been studying for weeks. Someone new to reading plays can find it challenging; acting it out or seeing it acted out can enhance the experience. Dr. Jenny Shaddock uses this technique in the classroom to help students better understand the content in the play. Recently Dr. Shaddock, Professor of English, was awarded the 2016-2017 Career in Teaching Excellence award by the College of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Shaddock has taught in the English Department at UWEC for 24 years and is also currently serving as the department’s Internship Director
The Career in Teaching Excellence award is given to a professor who demonstrates the ability and practice of motivating students and encouraging active learning; develops and assesses effective teaching methods and curricula; organizes learning experiences that enhance student learning and development; engages students in high-impact practices; stays current with scholarship in their field; leads campus and/or professional dialogue on teaching and learning; and serves as a leader and mentor in teaching.
Recently I spoke to Dr. Shaddock to get some insights into her teaching career and passion for student success. Several years after Dr. Shaddock had earned her Bachelor’s degree she decided to go back to school and work on a Master’s degree and eventually that led to her Ph.D. While in industry Dr. Shaddock felt that there was a lack of intellectual challenge. During her Master’s program she took courses in composition and literature and decided that English was where she belonged.
It is truly Dr. Shaddock’s work in the classroom that has earned her this award. She is always looking for new ways to foster her students’ success and challenge herself as an educator. When asked what advice Jenny had for students it is to “seize the day.” She says that it is something to live by. She urges students to live life for their dreams and ambitions and not to focus solely on the financial aspects of a career, but to find your passion. Dr. Shaddock had some advice for future educators, saying “It’s about the student, and it’s about listening to the student,” making sure that they understand the importance of their job is the students and their learning.
Since Dr. Shaddock has been at UW-Eau Claire she has taught so many classes and been very involved with the campus and her students. A few particular memories stand out from those years. One memory is of a resistant student in a Bronte class that by the end of the semester had transformed and the catalyst was the novel Jane Eyre. Watching that transformation was a wonderful moment for Dr. Shaddock. In another class that was focused on World War I literature, the students found a lot of the material to be really difficult and heavy. In response the class decided to pull up a fireplace on the projector to make the classroom more comfortable. So they had the gentle noise and visual of warmth in the classroom to help with the weight of the reading. “There are so many more memories in 24 years,” Dr. Shaddock stated, but those are a few.
Dr. Shaddock also shared why she believes that literature and the intense study of literature is so important: “Literature reflects and shapes essential meaning, meaning of life and impact on personal issues. It puts you at the vortex of how we read and interpret our own lives, critically and effectively,” which is a monumental task. With that in mind, Dr. Shaddock shared some of her favorite works. Starting with her favorite book, she stated that it is nearly impossible to choose, so she named a recent read that really grabbed her attention: The Vegetarian by Han Kang. Dr. Shaddock stated, “It is surreal, Kafka-esque, an incredibly powerful account of the subtle and not-so-subtle violence we enact against those closest to us,” and it is also the winner of the Man Booker Prize. Next Dr. Shaddock gave a recommendation for a recent, thought-provoking movie (after making it clear that it was a nearly impossible task to select a favorite): I am Not Your Negro. “The words in the film are all James Baldwin’s and it movingly offers a searing blueprint of American racism,” and she recommends it to everyone.
Having taken several classes with Dr. Shaddock myself, and especially in my experience as her Academic Apprentice for one semester, I can attest to the hard work and dedication that is so evident in her classroom. Classes are built to challenge students and foster innovative thinking, and Dr. Shaddock is always looking for new material to teach and new ways to express the information. Dr. Shaddock strives to enrich the lives of the students in her classroom while also continually learning from them. In addition to acting out plays, Dr. Shaddock likes to take students to see plays on campus; in addition, she likes to take students to the archives in McIntyre Library to experience priceless pieces of history and to the Foster Gallery to see amazing works of art. Literature is a piece of the history of human kind and in the classroom Dr. Shaddock likes to help students to see the importance of that as well as other types of art by helping students to make the connection through seeing and doing. Congratulations to Dr. Shaddock, and a big thank you for all the work she has done for her students and UW-Eau Claire.