Archive for Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Teacher’s essay to print in journal

May 14, 2008

The love of books helped Basehor-Linwood High School English and creative writing teacher Jaclyn Naster choose her career path.

And, one book in particular not only sealed the deal for her, but was also the inspiration for her article that is set to be published in "Academic Exchange Quarterly" later this month.

"I did it on a whim. I didn't think it would happen," she said about submitting the article to the academic journal.

While working on her second master's degree at Fort Hays State University last summer, Naster took an African American literature class, which required the completion of several large, research-based papers. The topic on one of the papers was how to teach the novel, "Beloved," by Toni Morrison, the book Naster calls her favorite.

The controversial and Pulitzer Prize winning book explores not only the traditional historical accounts of slavery, but a dark side that includes violence and sexual abuse. It is on the American Library Association's most frequently challenged and banned books list.

"I read 'Beloved' my senior year in AP English," Naster said. "I just remember being so blown away by this book and walking in and wanting to talk about this book. I thought, what a great job to sit around all day and talk about books. That's the book that made me want to be an English teacher, so I kind of have a kindredship with this book."

Her professor thought her paper on how to teach the novel "Beloved" was so good that she suggested she submit it to the journal. Naster said she cut the original paper down from 5,000 to 5,000 words to about 3,000 words and submitted it.

"I thought, well, she (the professor) thinks it's good, so I might as well try it," Naster said.

Within a week, Naster received an e-mail from a representative of "Academic Exchange Quarterly" that said they thought readers would like her article and they were interested in publishing it. The article was then reviewed and sent back to her with revisions. She said she was asked to rewrite the conclusion and include an "about me" section, but that was all. After a bit more e-mail correspondence, Naster said they told her the piece entitled, "Teachable Qualities of the Novel 'Beloved'" would be in the Spring 2008 issue of the journal.

One of the most exciting things, she said, is that it's a rarity to find a high school teacher published in academia. The authors are almost always college professors or associated with a university in some way. The published article will not only bring prestige to Naster, but to the Basehor-Linwood school district as well, because Basehor-Linwood High School will be printed next to Naster's name.

The spring issue has not yet arrived, but her byline is in the table of contents online.

"It's not going to be real until it's in my hands," she said.

While Naster said she does not teach "Beloved" in her classes, she does teach a unit on censorship, informs parents of the activities she plans to teach in her classroom and keeps her students busy reading several novels a semester. One of her favorite books to teach is "To Kill a Mockingbird," by Harper Lee, which is also on the challenged and banned books list.

"Every book we read, somebody at some point had a problem with it," she said. "Because good literature makes you think; it makes you question and it's real. There has always been very positive parental support for the books we read in school."

Naster said the news that her first-ever submission was going to be published has motivated her to continue writing and submitting. And, while she said she loves her job as a teacher and would like to stay in academia, writing is also a passion and a calling for her.

"Ultimately that's where I want to head," she said. "Teaching makes me very, very happy, but someday that's what I want to do. I want to write."

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