Teaching at McKendree by Chance

By Annie Bierman, Staff Writer. Published April 1, 2011

In the last issue, I chose new faculty on campus to interview. In this issue, I simply chose two professors I wanted to get to know better. The common threads between them, I found out later, are that they  were both living in the area already before taking jobs at McKendree, and they are both currently involved in lengthy, and interesting in my opinion, research projects besides teaching a full load at McKendree. I hope these short profiles will give you a glimpse of two awesome professors at McKendree!

Dr. Bethany Hill-Anderson is an Assistant Professor of Education who teaches Foundations of American Public Education, Tests & Measurements, and Methods of Teaching of Social Sciences (Elementary). The social sciences include such topics as history, geography, civics, economics, and cultures.  She also supervises student teachers and assesses student teachers’ professional portfolios.

Some people know going into college what they want to do for the rest of their lives. Education, however, for Hill-Anderson is actually more of a second career. Holding double Bachelor’s degrees in economics and French, education didn’t appeal to Hill-Anderson until she had children of her own and realized the importance of education and development. She went on to earn her Master’s degree in Social Science Education and was then encouraged to continue and earn her Ph.D. from Saint Louis University. Her initial reaction to my question about her career choice certainly says much about her journey as a teacher of teachers. She said, “Education chose me.”

What brought her to McKendree was the combination of McKendree’s education program’s reputation, the social studies job opening, and proximity to her home in O’Fallon. Going to a Methodist affiliated university in Ohio herself, Ohio Wesleyan, the religious connection also drew her to McKendree. Besides the sense of community she feels around McKendree, she noted the degree and level of professor/student interaction, the heavy service learning component, as well as the camaraderie amongst the other faculty members as part of McKendree’s uniqueness.

Hill-Anderson’s dissertation research was titled, “Original Evaluation Model for K-12 Gifted Programs.” Since she has completed her research, however, she has come back to her original specialization in the social sciences.  Her current research includes studying the effects of the No Child Left Behind Act in the social sciences as well as the assessment with it. In fact, she will present the findings of this research in April at the Midwest Association for Teacher Educators with two of McKendree’s graduate students in Education, Andrea Tardino and Andria Harrison.

Advice she would give to students includes: “use proper grammar” and “do for others.” The one she highlighted the most was to “experience the world, no matter if it is other states or other countries.”

Dr. Shelly Lemons, Assistant Professor of History, is in her first year at McKendree. She teaches American history post-1865, Women’s History, and Minorities in the American Experience. She loves history for the storytelling aspect of it, and for the connections in history students can make. As she said, “History is user-friendly.”

Lemons is actually different from any of the other faculty I interviewed; she wasn’t actually looking for a job. She said she was happy where she was, but liked the idea of McKendree as a small liberal arts school. She had heard of McKendree through The Chronicle of Higher Education’s piece on “Great Colleges to Work For.” When she came for her campus visit, she fell in love with McKendree and could feel the spirit of the school around her. She really likes the opportunities for growth, and all the creative people she works with, students, faculty, and staff alike. As far as her personal research goals and projects, she commented that McKendree “suits me.” The creative, supportive, and collaborative environment of McKendree is different from other universities.

Really showing how much she likes it at McKendree, she says she reflects everyday walking from the parking lot onto the campus that she is very thankful to be working here. She says that McKendree is unique to other universities because students’ attitudes are different; she feels as if they want to be here. They may not always like the assignment she gives them, but she feels as if they want to learn.

Research wise, she is finishing up a book titled, Down on First Street, which results from her dissertation research on prostitution in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She is in the middle of a different project, an oral history project in particular, about women in the Dust Bowl. Then on top of that, she is starting on another project about courthouse weddings proving the thesis that it doesn’t matter where you get married, the support system you have in place is what matters. This project is a combination of oral history and sociological survey as it is a collaboration with Dr. Amanda White, of St. Louis Community College at Meramec. Needless to say, Lemons is a very busy professor and researcher.

Some pieces of advice she would give to students include, “take risks, but know your limits, time limits, in particular,” “push out of your comfort zones,” and “if you want to be a good student, read the directions.”

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