Lander University Lecturer of English Starlyn "Dusty" McGee-Anderson, the winner of this year's Moore Award for Excellence in General Education Teaching, took the long road before finding her footing as an educator.
"Every career test I ever took clearly pointed to the education field, yet I resisted becoming a teacher for decades," she recalls. "I tell my students I've worked in a range of fields from hospitality to government to construction. But when I finally experienced teaching while in graduate school, I discovered all those career tests had actually been guiding me to the correct path - education."
The realization of finding her vocation was a liberating experience for McGee-Anderson. "I feel at home in the classroom," she said. "I'm able to use my creativity to make lessons impactful, and I am able to use my desire to help support my students. More importantly, I get the opportunity to see young adults grow beyond their own expectations. It is a wonderful experience to see students progress when they never believed it possible."
McGee-Anderson grew up in a little bayou town just north of New Orleans where she "became well-versed with setting crab traps, fishing, and learning to yell for cups and beads at Mardi Gras parades." She earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, but it was while working toward her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Arkansas that she first began to cultivate her empathetic approach to teaching.
"During my years as a teacher of college English courses in post-secondary settings, my teaching philosophy evolved into creating a curriculum and class environment that, above all, is supportive to the students," she said.
A large component of her teaching style relies upon the individual strengths of her students. "In my general education literature courses, for example, I offer the students the opportunity to choose between a formal, academic paper or a creative project accompanied by a reflective paper for their final project. This enables students of different learning styles the ability to use their strongest skill set to confidently demonstrate the knowledge and critical thinking skills they gained during the course. The bonus for me is seeing all the amazing artwork students create for this project."
Beyond her teaching strategies, however, is McGee-Anderson's commitment to inspiring compassion, curiosity and courage within her students. "I want my students to care for each other, to be eager to learn and to be brave enough to take chances in their studies. I encourage them to share their ideas, and I love when I spot a creative spark in my students."
McGee-Anderson is married to Dr. James Anderson, Assistant Professor of English and English Education at Lander. The couple have one nine-year-old daughter, and live in Greenwood.