Ryan Simmons
Department of English and Literature

Utah Valley University
800 W. University Parkway
Orem, UT 84058-5999
(801) 863-6290

"Those students get the highest grades who take their responsibilities of educating me most seriously" --Theodore Roethke


Grading standards for composition courses
Literature essay guidelines

Course Syllabi

Previous courses
English 2600
(Critical Introduction to Literature)
English 3520
(Literature of the American Renaissance)
English 3525
(American Literary Realism and Naturalism)
English 3540
(Contemporary American Literature)
English 3890
(Contemporary Critical Approaches to Literature:
African American Literary Theory)
English 4570
(Studies in the American Novel:
Novels of Politics and Reform)
English 4570
(Studies in the American Novel:
20th-C. Realism and Naturalism)
English 4570
(Studies in the American Novel:
Approaches to History in the Novel)
English 4570
(Studies in the American Novel:
Moral Behavior and the Novel)
English 471R
Eminent Authors:
Whitman and Dickinson
English 486R
(Topics in Literature: The Harlem Renaissance)
Current courses: Spring 2008
English 1010
(Introduction to Writing)
English 2510
(American Literature to 1865)
English 3530
(Modern American Literature)

Upcoming courses: Summer 2008
English 2520
(American Literature since 1865)
English 2600
(Critical Introduction to Literature)

Teaching Philosophy

All students are individuals—obviously enough; yet I try to keep in mind this basic fact every day as a teacher. I recognize that students come to the college classroom not as blank slates, but with repertoires of skills and ways of understanding that they have already developed. My job as a teacher, as I see it, is to help students identify, refine, and expand these repertoires, so that their education is more than just the accumulation of knowledge; it is the development of ways of shaping and making knowledge that they can use in the world. Though I tend to favor a discussion-oriented classroom, I incorporate a variety of teaching modes that accommodate different styles of learning, including lecture, group work, and hands-on learning.

I am guided as a teacher by the central assumption that thinkers and writers do not function in a vacuum, but rather within a context of received ideas, challenges, and dialogue—in short, as part of a community. I see it as fundamentally important for writing and learning to be seen by students as something other than a series of abstract tasks to be fulfilled to please the narrow audience of an instructor. As members of a community, I believe, my students can become more self-conscious learners and, to a greater degree, learners who are internally motivated—animated by their involvement in dialogue and by their interest in the subject matter, rather than merely in pursuit of a grade. In a number of my courses I have students write at least one collaborative essay or take part in a collaborative project (such as presenting a topic collectively or leading discussion in small groups). I also make use of technology to this end; in recent years, I have replaced traditional reading journals with online submissions that allow for more possibilities of dialogue. Instead of writing private journal entries that may be collected by the instructor only two or three times per semester, students submit online entries that others are free to read and respond to immediately. By participating in online writing communities and by choosing some readings and topics for discussion, my students take control of their learning situation.

Informed by my scholarly interest in political writing and by my reflection on why literature and writing matter to me personally, I help students locate and realize potential connections between the subject matter at hand and contexts they will encounter outside the academic world. These include professional contexts, but even more importantly involve the questions and dilemmas they face as participants in a democratic society. Whether one wishes to solve a problem by writing a business letter or to be an informed participant in a community issue, one is best served by one’s education when it has provided not just answers, but the ability to ask good questions. As a teacher, I cannot predict all of the problems a student may face as a writer or as an agent in the community. I can, however, promote certain habits of interpreting the world that help my students act as fluent, productive, and ethical shapers of their own experience.

Return to homepage