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Frederick CC Professor Helps Students Catch Up

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By BLAIR AMES
The Frederick News-Post, of Frederick

FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — Joe Healey didn’t think he wanted to be a teacher when he graduated from college, but he credits some of his undergraduate experiences with motivating him to enter the profession.

“I felt like I was the worst-read English major to ever come out of college,” he said. “When I came out of college, I felt like I just read what they told me.”

Although Healey learned a lot from the “old white dudes who lectured to you,” he said he has patterned himself after the way his graduate school professors communicated and structured classes.

“The key is that you’re always trying to challenge your students, no matter who they are,” he said.

Now in his fourth year at Frederick Community College, Healey teaches developmental English, English 101 and a creative writing course. He also serves as a tutor in the Writing Center.

Developmental courses are aimed at students who are not quite prepared for college-level courses. The college offers developmental courses in math, reading and writing.

With financial support from FCC, this summer Healey attained certification as a developmental education specialist.

It wrapped up a nearly yearlong process that began in July 2010 at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, when Healey attended a four-week training session for developmental educators sponsored by the Kellogg Institute.

Educators studied how students were assessed, how to design a classroom and how to best use support services for students.

“You’re just immersed in learning about developmental education,” Healey said. “It’s intense.”

Healey brought what he learned back to FCC and conducted a yearlong study of the college’s final exit exam for students in the highest-level developmental writing class.

He discovered that the college could tweak how the exam is being offered, but many of FCC’s methods — including cross-grading, where as many as three professors grade a student’s work to eliminate any bias — are working.

FCC’s completion rate for the program’s students is 60 percent, compared with 50 percent for developmental students across the nation, Healey said.

“We find that our students are just as good as students who didn’t need developmental ed,” he said.

Healey graduated from the University of Connecticut with a bachelor’s degree in English. He then moved to Colorado, where he worked as an admissions counselor for 11 years.

He said he loved working with prospective students, but once they were on campus he moved on to recruit the next class.

“I wanted to just have more student contact, working with students more closely,” he said.

Following that plan, he enrolled in graduate school and obtained a master’s degree in English composition and rhetoric while teaching as a graduate assistant.

His first full-time teaching gig was in about 2003-04 at a community college in Colorado, he said.

But Healey and his wife decided to move back to the East Coast so their children could be closer to their grandparents, which led him to apply at FCC.

His wife, who is from northern Virginia, is an adjunct professor at FCC.

“It’s the right school for me, the right size,” he said. “FCC has been a great move.”

Information from: The Frederick (Md.) News-Post, http://www.fredericknewspost.com

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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