Faculty Spotlight on Lecturer Kimberlee Jackson
Writers are often prompted to ‘write what you know.’ Kimberlee Medicine Horn Jackson, adjunct faculty lecturer of English at Kent State Geauga, takes that a step further by challenging her writing students to “discover the gaps in what is already known. It’s in the gap or the hidden layer where revelation lives.”
Accordingly, Jackson has leveraged her personal story as a Yankton Sioux Native American poet with a personal cross-cultural adoption journey to introduce students to the Native American Boarding School Era of American history, which most of them have never learned about. Jackson explains, “They may have read a small amount of material on the Trail of Tears but little else. In College Writing, they learn that an important component in any writing is discovering the gaps in what is already known.
“Writer Kent Nerburn calls the Boarding School Era a ‘dark stain in American history,’ and I teach this topic for two reasons. One is to learn from the truth of what happened by presenting a Native American perspective, and the other is that my mother is a boarding school survivor. I can bring the topic to life in a way someone who has only read about it in a book cannot. Students grapple with this history and wonder why they have never been taught it before. Good writers ask questions like that and explore possible answers.”
Jackson has been teaching English Composition I and II and Stretch I and II at the Kent State Geauga Campus in Burton for eight years. Its smaller classes offer a greater sense of community for her composition classes, she says.
She utilizes that space to “roll up our sleeves and get to the intentional and deliberate process of learning how to effectively communicate with the written word. Often, we sit in a circle to discuss the current work in progress, so the drafting process becomes more of good writing practice and is more personal. We have time to chew on ideas and bring them to life, which is an essential part of composing written work. We are here to reach the common goal of learning together to help create a brighter future.”
Jackson helps students to navigate the boundaries and smudged lines of what it means to straddle multiple cultures, customs, and belief systems within their own lives and those of their neighbors. “We all engage in the human experience together. Our cultures can divide us or unify us. We decide, but if we decide to allow our difference to bring unity, then we can learn from each other in a more meaningful way.”
Having graduated from Kent State with a BA in English herself, Jackson uses her own educational background as common ground. “Studying at Kent State instilled in me a love for learning and all the challenges that go along with it.”
She pursued her master’s in Creative Writing in poetry at Ashland University, where she also learned about writing creative non-fiction essays. From there, Jackson studied at George Fox University, earning an MA in Intercultural Studies with a focus on Native Americans. This program was taught in partnership with the North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies learning community, comprised mostly of First Nations faculty in Canada and Native American faculty in the United States.
Jackson explains, “As a Native American adoptee raised off the reservation (I reunited with my birth family in 2004), I began to immerse myself in Native American history from the Indigenous point of view, which differs from the non-native point of view. I saw gaps and incongruities that caused confusion.”
She says that when history is taught from only one perspective, then students learn only partial truth. In contrast, a multicultural perspective is informed in a variety of valuable ways that are neither easy nor comfortable, but necessary.
Jackson has spent nearly 15 years studying the history and relationships of Native and non-Native people, listening to firsthand accounts. “I was adopted off the reservation under false pretenses, so I have learned the history behind this method of removal,” she says. “My research will never end. There is so much to learn and share with others.”
As a writer, Jackson uses poetry, creative non-fiction, and academic essay and to share this history in creative ways. “I wanted the opportunity to engage a wide audience in a deeper dialogue.”
As a teacher, Jackson helps her students to recognize and appreciate their place in a multicultural society. “To have any ongoing and productive dialogue means we have to want to spend a great deal of time listening to understand each other. Residing in a place of inquiry keeps my mind more open to the value of what the other people in the room bring with them.”
As a lifelong learner, writer and teacher, Jackson acknowledges that “The experiences of each writer, thinker, and scholar transfers into the classroom, and this is a great starting place to learn from them in new ways. Our stories have value because they happened to us, and we can learn from each other. I tell my writing community that what they think matters and how they feel about something can change the world.”
Read more about Kimberlee Jackson's personal and academic exploration into Native American culture.