English Department Interview Series
We know that you are from California. Can you tell us which part of the state, and what was it like growing up there?
I am from Southern California; just north of L.A. and south of Santa Barbara. My parents still live in my childhood home. It is in the country, on an acre of land with a beautiful view overlooking a valley. On a clear day, from certain places in the valley, you can see the ocean.
It was incredible growing up there. Many teenage years were spent watching bands on Sunset Boulevard or taking in the rays on the shores of the Pacific. I also got into horseback riding very young. Our barn was just a mile from my parents' house. And when we retired our horses from the English jumping circuit, my parents built stables in the backyard for them.
Southern California is still an incredibly special place for me. My husband and I had our Moroccan-inspired wedding reception in my parents' backyard. It is where I was shaped and formed. It is why I will often drop a “dude” in conversations. And it is the reason you will often find me there during summer break.
Where did you attend college, and what was your major?
Most people do not know this, but I was obsessed with the television show "Felicity" in high school. In the show, the main character is from California and follows a boy to New York to attend NYU. So, I actually applied and got into NYU. But during a college tour of the east coast, I fell in love with a small private Christian school just north of Boston — Gordon College. And I actually went there for a semester. But this Southern California girl could not handle the intense winters. So I completed my undergraduate degree at Azusa Pacific University back in Southern California. I majored in English with a minor in Religious Studies.
I also have a Master's degree in Education and will complete a second one in English from Arizona State University in August.
Did you know, in college, that you wanted to become a high school English teacher?
My love for literature started in middle school. I played the outrageous Bottom in my eighth-grade performance of "A Midsummer Night’s Dream." And from there my love for Shakespeare and story began. But initially, I wanted to be a writer. When I first encountered Fitzgerald’s hypnotic diction in "The Great Gatsby," I thought it was my quest to write as well. But the more I read, the more I realized that my words could never match what these men and women were creating. But what I could do, is teach their words, share their message, and continue to encounter them. So teaching seemed to be the ideal occupation.
Some of my favorite moments with my students are when they share their love of a story we are reading together. If I can ignite that spark and get my students reading, we can share in this magical, illuminating, self-reflecting world together. It is in those moments that I know teaching is my calling.
We hear that you travel a lot. Can you tell us where you went to last summer?
My husband and I love to travel! We do not have children so travel has been the gift we use to deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.
Last summer, my in-laws went with us to Ireland, Scotland, England and France. My husband’s family is Scottish, so it was a trip that allowed them to encounter their roots. We went whiskey tasting in Aberdeen, had high tea at Harrods in London, and walked through Notre Dame in Paris.
The highlight of the trip for me, of course, revolved around literature. We did a day trip to Oxford and had a pint in the pub where C. S. Lewis created Narnia and Tolkien invented Middle Earth. It was a magical town — I know I will be back there again soon. And visiting The Long Room (library) at Trinity College in Dublin may have made me cry. ;)
What is your idea of a perfect Sunday afternoon?
A perfect Sunday afternoon would be reading a book for pleasure on the back deck of our cabin up north. My husband and dogs would be with me, and the folky melodies of the Avett Brothers would be wafting through the pine air.
Is it true that you adore pets? Do you have any now?
I absolutely adore pets! I grew up surrounded by animals from cats, dogs, fish, hamsters, reptiles and horses. I think animals are gifts from God. They are attuned to our emotions providing comfort, healing, and joy. We have two dogs currently. We have had them since our first year of marriage, so they are both twelve. One is a female long-haired Chihuahua named Stella, and the other is a Puggle named Boddington. They have traveled with us, specifically up to the cabin and to California. Boddington loves the water and Stella loves walking through the woods.
Tell us about the elective you teach — Science Fiction and Computer Consciousness.
This class was inspired by one of my favorite units I taught at the school I worked at before Brophy, as well the English 101/102 course I taught at Estrella Mountain Community College. The unit asks students to debate whether computers are capable of consciousness or not. The content was inspired by my mother, who is currently working on her Master of Divinity at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California. She was taking a philosophy class at the time and stumbled across some incredible philosophers discussing the mind-body problem. From there, the unit emerged and has been applied for the past ten years in my upper-division courses.
Last year, Mr. Damaso asked if we had ideas for elective courses, and with his support, I was able to shape a curriculum founded in computer consciousness and my love of Sci-Fi. It has been an absolute pleasure discussing topics like time travel, created monsters, playing god, artificial intelligence and morality in my classroom.
I want to thank the class of 2019 for their feedback and their addition of the Sci-Fi bracket. I cannot wait to use it in a more impactful way next year. And I have to thank Parker Hughes ‘19 for reaching out to one of the philosophers from that original unit on consciousness, David Chalmers. We were able to receive an email from him discussing his current views on computer consciousness. And I should tell you based on Chalmer’s response we need to continue to discuss the impact AI will have on this world because it is not going anywhere and its influence will continue to spread if we do not continue to question its ethical influence over our lives.
What is the favorite book you have taught here at Brophy?
How do I answer this? There are so many. I always love the conversations that come out of teaching "The Great Gatsby," "The Catcher in the Rye," "The Crucible" or "Frankenstein." But a book that has resulted in beautifully vulnerable and relevant conversation, which I have only taught at Brophy, is Mitch Albom’s "Have a Little Faith." It is a novel that follows the lives of three men from different backgrounds and how their faith has impacted their lives. This premise then trickles over into class conversations the first few weeks of class. I get to learn so much about my students, about their struggles with faith and the moments they have encountered God. It forces us to get real with one another and God right away. It reminds me why I left the public education system to work here. "Have a Little Faith" reinforces why I went into this profession from the beginning because stories add meaning to our life, we all have stories to tell, and God is found within these stories.
Tell us something about yourself that we would never suspect.
Most people don’t know that my husband and I have a Harley-Davidson Street Glide cruiser and are avid riders. We have taken it to Lake Arrowhead and Northern Arizona. We want to do a Pacific Coast Highway trip up to Canada one day.
If you were trapped on an island for one year, which five books would you bring with you?
Do book series count as one book? Haha. I would bring the "Lord of the Rings" so that I could feel like I was in another world when the island life became too difficult to handle. "The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe" would transport me to the wintery world of Narnia. Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy in "Pride and Prejudice" would keep me swooning. "Les Miserables" would perhaps take me the whole year to read, but it would revive my soul and remind me to persevere in the face of adversity. And I would take Philip Pullman’s "The Golden Compass" which I have yet to read, but was told I would enjoy.