From Kutztown to Macedonia and Louisiana

a picture of Kutztown English alumnus Troy Spier

Troy E. Spier is a graduate of Reading Area Community College (2012) and Kutztown University (2014). After graduating from Kutztown University with a degree in Secondary English Education, he was admitted as a doctoral student to the Linguistics program at Tulane University, His research concerns language documentation and description in the context of Bantu and Balkan languages. As a result, he regularly confronts issues related to language contact, death, and shift; the construction, maintenance, and loss of ethnolinguistic identity; and the pedagogical implications of language use, vitality, and stigmatization. Reflecting on his time at Kutztown University, this is what Troy had to say:

“Becoming a student at Kutztown University was not part of the plan. In fact, graduating from my previous institution was not part of the plan, either. When the recession arrived like a tidal wave, the economy tightened to such an extent that attending school seemed like the only reasonable option. Looking back on everything I experienced there, however, it becomes readily apparent how much the faculty members contributed to my personal and professional growth.

When I first arrived at Kutztown University, I immediately enrolled in literature and linguistics courses. Dr. Jonathan Shaw, through what I naively believed at that time to be pure stubbornness, refused to provide a model for our literary explications, forcing me to decode the literary texts, find my own meaning within, and then encode that meaning in a prosaic form. Dr. Ellesia Blaque helped me embrace my passion for African American literature and encouraged me to represent my work in such a way that I could incorporate my longstanding passion for linguistics. Dr. Elaine Reed, Dr. Yuri Yerastov, and Dr. Jeffrey Punske all encouraged me to pursue graduate studies in this field, thus transforming it from a (somewhat) sidelined interest to a real career trajectory. Dr. Carissa Pokorny-Golden and Dr. Patricia Pytleski taught me what it means to be an effective, fair teacher; in fact, Dr. Pytleski encouraged me to take risks in my practice to discuss topics with students that are typically underrepresented in the secondary classroom. And finally, Dr. Linda Cullum taught me not only the current ‘best practices’ for providing written feedback on students’ assignments, but also how to retain compassion in a world that consistently presents sizable obstacles. Other English instructors also had an impact on my professional accomplishments; however, our limited coursework together and the brevity of this reflection are fairly limiting.

Had I not continued my education at Kutztown University, I can confidently say that I would not have achieved what I have thus far. Teaching and learning are necessarily interrelated processes: Educators teach and learn from their students. It is an understanding and appreciation of this dynamic that my relationships with these professors allowed me not only to graduate successfully, but to grow in exponential, unimaginable ways. Since graduating from Kutztown University, I have been pursuing my Ph.D., working as an English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor, and working as a humanitarian aid worker and refugee activist. More information about this humanitarian work can be found here and here.”

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