Through my classes with Dr. Andrew Lotz, I progressively began connecting more and more with him. I’ve taken a handful of his classes—each captivating me more than the last. The content of his courses is calculated and wonderfully planned. Supplemental to his course materials, though, Dr. Lotz’s teaching style and gripping vocal lectures left marks on me that rivaled even the most interesting of topics.
My connection with him grew as I began planning my proposal for the Summer Undergraduate Research Award, which provides research grants to students. Here, I worked towards researching the literary background of Appalachian stereotypes and exploring the foundations of other minority groups. I brought my project proposal to him and another faculty member, and they both pushed me to move forward with it.
Dr. Lotz played a pivotal role in my research. Within the project, I met with him multiple times to discuss my most exciting findings and talk about further readings. He would point me in different directions, often multiple at once, and enable me to continue my exploration. Without his help, I could not have covered such a breadth of topics.
My connection to him regarding my participation as his undergraduate teaching assistant stemmed from one specific summer meeting. At the time, I was reading a book of my own finding, Apples on the Flood: Minority Discourse and Appalachia by Rodger Cunningham. From this text, I was excited to read the story of a “Welsh aristocrat of Norman affiliation” […] who […] consciously and drastically rework[ed] the old legends to present the ‘Celtic’ viewpoint in a form palatable to the overlords of the expanding civilization” (Cunningham 40). I brought this excerpt to Dr. Lotz, and, I presume, because of my animation, he offered me the position. I immediately accepted.
I will offer two different approaches to advising other students on connecting to other faculty mentors about teaching opportunities. The first stems from your passions—find what you love and subjugate yourself to it. I became enthralled with Appalachia, stereotypes, and the propagation of them. It seems like the opportunity to be a teaching assistant fell into my lap because I was having the right conversations with the right people about my favorite topics. The second approach is more direct. Go to your professors’ office hours—specifically ask them about their research or teaching experience. Doing so will earn you positive social points and perhaps an opportunity to ask them about potential other teaching opportunities under them or other professors. If you’re interested in learning more about teaching but don’t know where to start, go to your favorite professor and ask. They would be more than happy to help.
My experience as a teacher in Dr. Lotz’s classroom is still ramping up. Currently, I exist somewhere between a student and a teacher, still learning and offering questions that I believe will benefit the students’ experience. My primary tasks have yet to begin. Closer to the semester’s end, I will be teaching a day of class and instructing students on how to complete the final assignment. Also, I will still be meeting half the class to discuss their final projects. I am happily anticipating both.