Instructor’s “Leave No Student Behind” Ethos Sets Them Up for Success
“One of my strengths is being unwilling to leave any student behind,” says Sorina Ailiesei, Ph.D., an English Composition instructor at Kent State University Geauga Campus and the Twinsburg Academic Center.
“I need to set them up for success in their writing, composing strategies, and critical thinking skills, which they need for all of their college courses. They have my full support.”
Dr. Ailiesei now teaches College Writing I & II as well as “Stretch,” a two-part introductory and next-level course in college writing (ENG01001 and ENG11002) which “stretches” over two semesters.
“My ESL experience paved my way to teaching as an English instructor of college writing,” Dr. Ailiesei says. “It was a unique experience to work with a diverse population of around 600 international students for five years. I can connect ESL, writing, and Stretch all to developmental English skills, starting with the basic pillar of grammar.”
In her 19 years of teaching English, Dr. Ailiesei taught all levels of English in her birth country of Romania for 10 years before emigrating to the U.S. She earned her bachelor’s degrees in both English and French language and literature, then pursued a master’s in American Studies, and completed a Ph.D. in Ethnic American Literature in 2012.
As a doctoral fellow at Alexandru Ioan Cuza University, Dr. Ailiesei focused her research on Asian American literature, cultural studies, autobiography, and memory and identity studies, publishing various critical essays and articles. Most recently, she wrote a book chapter titled “China Men and the American Dream – Crossing Borders in Quest for New Identities,” published last December.
“My research deals with second-generation Asian Americans and how they come to make sense of who they are in this culture,” Dr. Ailiesei explains.
“In my classes, I use a thematic approach to integrate identity (ethnic, racial, or gender identity) when we discuss texts or essay topics,” she explains. “I select thematic strands and clusters of issues notable today: gendered and racial silence and the necessity for speech, the conflict between acculturation and adherence to an ancestral tradition, issues of self-discovery and search for identity.”
Considering her experience with and sensitivity to diverse student groups and multicultural issues, Dr. Ailiesi is committed to motivating students from various perspectives. She uses innovative teaching tools to help Introduction to College Writing-Stretch (ENG01001) students acquire college-level literacy, with an emphasis on reading and writing challenging literature. In College Writing I Stretch (ENG 11002), students continue practicing writing skills, with emphasis on the reading, thinking, writing, and technological skills necessary for writing college-level texts.
This two-semester writing course is designed for students who return to college after a long absence or who need additional work on their college-level writing before taking regular composition classes.
“Each of my students needs more remedial help and comes with a different background and set of challenges. But they all share the same goal: to succeed academically. And I am here to help them meet that goal.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has only deepened students’ challenges to learning, Dr. Ailiesei believes. “This crisis has affected us in many ways. Our Stretch students had difficulty transitioning from face-to-face to online learning environments. However, I learned that the online platform also provides an opportunity to teach in a new way, such as intentionally writing through the brainstorming and peer review process to engage students through writing, despite their initial discomfort with it.”
As students interact with one another on an online discussion board, create a blog entry, or engage in peer reviews, they depend on their writing to communicate. This allows them to practice honing their skills in writing for an audience, identifying purpose, and explaining context.
Dr. Ailiesei says that this online writing approach offers immediate, empathetic, and effective feedback to students who otherwise felt isolated with remote learning. “I also reached out to them multiple times a day so they would persevere and not give up,” she adds.
In essence, Dr. Ailiesei puts forth every effort to keep her students motivated and on track to reach their goals. “Do not put your life on hold,” is her message to anyone considering taking a pause in their education due to COVID complications.
“Do whatever you can now, despite the challenges, to pursue your education and your career, even if it’s uncomfortable. It can be difficult with so many complicating factors, but you can do it!”
As she anticipates a new Fall Semester during the fluctuating pandemic, Dr. Ailiesei recognizes that flexibility is the key to success. While the university is providing in-person, online, and hybrid classrooms, every effort is being made to accommodate a variety of students’ needs.
“My students can expect my full support in their path to success in this class,” Dr. Ailiesei emphasizes. “I use my teaching experience, research background, and creative influence to expand their knowledge and understanding through critical thinking. I am here to help students meet their educational outcomes.”