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Instructor Insights: Four Teachers in the Trenches

Twenty years ago, the Instructor rank was created thanks to the multi-year organizing efforts of Faculty Associates in the Department of English. The initial sixteen positions were one-year appointments (an improvement over the semester-by-semester contracts offered Faculty Associates), and included benefits since they were considered full-time. Although the rank still specializes in meeting the needs of first-year composition students, the teaching responsibilities of the now nearly 60 Instructors in the department has expanded into a wide range of courses at all levels.

Recently, Instructors achieved representational voting rights in department affairs, and their contributions to ASU students and the larger community are gaining recognition. Here are just a few examples of the varied work in which the Department of English’s Instructors are engaged:

Brandon Michalik, MFA

Brandon Michalik earned her MFA in Creative Writing (poetry) from ASU in 2007 and has been an Instructor in the department since Fall 2008. But there’s a lot more to Michalik than her work for the department. Her essay "Re-Wilding" was published in Superstition Review in December and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. And she has an unusual hobby: “This past year I completed a year-long herbal apprenticeship, including courses on herbal wild-crafting, and in my spare time (whatever that is) I make herbal remedies and tasty herb-based concoctions for both medicine and pleasure (drinking vinegars and oxymels, e.g.).”

She has taught First Year Composition (ENG 101, ENG 102, and WAC 101) as well as ENG 217 (The Art of the Personal Essay, a literacy course). In Fall 2015, Brandon will be teaching ENG 108 (an ENG 102 course designed for non-native English speakers, a fast growing cohort of composition students). She has also served on the ASU Composition Conference steering committee for the last three years.

Valerie Bandura Finn, MFA

Valerie Bandura Finn also holds an MFA in poetry, with degrees from Columbia University and the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, where she served as the Joan Beebe Teaching Fellow. Born in the former Soviet Union, Bandura Finn was awarded a residency from the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, and the James Merrill Fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center. Bandura’s poems have appeared and are forthcoming, among other publications, in the American Poetry ReviewPloughsharesPrairie SchoonerCrazyhorse, Alaska Quarterly, Third Coast, and the Best New Poets anthology. Her book, Freak Show (Black Lawrence, 2013) was a Finalist for the 2014 Paterson Poetry Prize.

Bandura Finn has been teaching First Year Composition courses at ASU since 2007, both in hybrid and online formats, and she’s also teaching poetry classes through Piper's Writers Studio Classes and was on faculty for the 2015 Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writer's Conference. Currently she’s the Interview Editor for Superstition Review, an undergraduate online literary journal through ASU.

Lupco Spasovski, PhD

Lupco Spasovski has taught rhetoric and composition and linguistics at ASU since the fall of 1998. Besides composition, his areas of specialization are ESL writing and grammar, pragmalinguistics, and sociopragmatics. Spasovski earned his BA in English from Ss. Cyril and Methodius University, Skopje (the capital and largest city in the Republic of Macedonia) and his MA in English and PhD in Rhetoric, Composition and Linguistics at ASU. He has taught courses in composition, general linguistics, English grammar, phonetics and phonology, sociolinguistics, methods of teaching English, and ESL, EFL and ESP.

From 1998-2008, Spasovski taught Macedonian at the ASU Critical Languages Institute—a nationally recognized institute specializing in less commonly taught languages. His research and academic interests include rhetoric and composition (especially ESL writing), interlanguage and cross-cultural pragmatics, sociolinguistics, pragmatics of English and Slavic languages, and English grammar and usage. Spasovski was recently featured in ASU Second Language Writing Online and in The State Press as one of the top RateMyProfessors at ASU.

Shavawn Berry, MPW

Shavawn Berry earned her master's degree in Professional Writing, specializing in creative nonfiction and memoir, at the University of Southern California in 1998, and has done extensive coursework at ASU in poetry, magical realism, and creative nonfiction. 

For five years, Berry mentored interns involved with Kalliope – A Consortium of New Voices, an online journal she created to teach ASU Writing Certificate students the skills of editing and writing for a magazine. She also belongs to The Beautiful Writers Group, an online creative writing group that provides mentorship and training to all its members in writing for publication and creating effective book proposals. And in 2014, she published multiple feature articles for Accents on English and Writing Notes; 73 personal essays in publications such as Be You Media Group, Rebelle Society, The Good Men Project, The Anjana Network, and elephant journal; and three poems, including “What I See” in The Huffington Post. Berry recently won a Lincoln Applied Ethics Teaching Fellowship. Check out Berry’s award-winning Digication portfolio.

As of May 2015, she’ll have worked at ASU for eleven years, teaching ENG 101, 102, and 217, but also ENG 301 (Writing for the Professions), ENG 302 (Business Writing), ENG 394 (Writing a Personal History, The Art of the Personal Essay), and ENG 374 (Technical Editing). She was a substitute teacher for the Writing Programs in 2013-2014, which gave her the opportunity to teach WAC 107 and 108 (First-Year Composition for Multilingual Writers) while their usual teachers were on medical or maternity leave.

Most recently, Berry has taught ENG 484 (The Pen Project), developed by the Department of English in cooperation with the New Mexico Corrections Department and Arizona prison authorities. In April of this year, Berry collaborated with Lecturer Cornelia Wells and two of the Pen Project interns in a face-to-face workshop on creative writing, “Tell Me a Story: Workshop for Incarcerated Writers,” at New Mexico Department of Corrections facility in Santa Fe, NM.

Jan Kelly 

Photo of Brandon Michalik courtesy Michalik.  |  Photo of Valerie Bandura Finn courtesy Bandura Finn.  |  Photo of Lupco Spasovski courtesy Spasovski.  |  Photo of Shavawn Berry by Jill Richard Ownsby.

Background header image from 1925: Students, faculty, and staff in front of the Old Quad. L to R are the Science Building (now the University Club), Old Main, and the Auditorium/Gymnasium (where now sits the Language and Literature Building). UP UPC ASUB C357 1920s #42. [Note: the image on the linked page is transposed, and the Science Building on the right.]