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Awesome Dad Gambles on his Daughter’s Literacy:
Gerri Dobbins, Community College Instructor

By Amber Jones

Society has emphasized the importance of reading to children from a young age for many years. Gerri Dobbins’s father had no idea the benefits he could reap from this seemingly trivial childhood tradition. Gerri Dobbins giggles as she remembers her father betting that his daughter could actually read an entire story at a very young age. She recited the story perfectly and her father made $10! The joke: Her mother had read to her so frequently that she had memorized the books. The moral: Never miss the opportunity to wager on a child’s intellect.

Education

Therefore, it would not be strange to expect this bright child to grow up and pursue an education in Literature. Graduating in 1986 with her undergraduate degree from Western Carolina University, she pursued a master's degree there as well, focusing on composition. Dobbins had been a non-traditional student and had found that working in a medical office didn't satisfy her passion for reading and writing. A fellow literature major gave her this advice:“Sometimes you have to do things for yourself.”

Dobbins can remember the instant she knew she wanted to be a teacher. “I was tutoring a student in the writing center, regarding direct objects versus indirect objects," she recounts. "He finally grasped the concept! He was so grateful, and the feeling was overwhelming!” She pursued teaching and actually taught at WCU.

A great groundwork

When pursuing doctoral work at University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Dobbins felt more prepared than many of her peers because of the knowledge she gained in Cullowhee. She credits Dr. Jim Addison and Dr. Elizabeth Addison with modeling great teaching technique. She established long-term relationships with professors and had her mind “reshaped” to such an extent that she developed “individuality.”

Dobbins's advice to other students and literature majors at Western Carolina University: “Follow your heart, do what you love, and the money will come later.” Her modest home or limited finances never curtail Gerri Dobbins’s happiness or her love for literature. She claims she was blessed with parents who valued learning and instilled this value in her at a very young age. She remembers her father answering many of her questions with the advice, “Look it up.”

Teaching

Dobbins loves her job teaching at a community college in the Piedmont region. She gets to relive her childhood by playing school all day, every day. “Being so satisfied in your career and your life is rare,” says Dobbins, “but some things are sobering, like the sheer numbers of students I teach and the papers I must grade.”

An instructor's job, Dobbins feels, is to make her students competitive in the job market. As industrial and labor positions are shipped overseas, reading, writing, communication and listening skills become even more essential in today’s labor market. Education empowers and liberates candidates when jobs are scarce. Gerri Dobbins is doing her part to provide these skills, in spite of the fact that she rarely encounters a student who truly loves reading and writing.

Dobbins provides opportunities for students to incorporate writing and analysis on their own turf with people in their own world. She describes an assignment in which a student profiles a tattoo parlor. Dobbins says, “Teaching students to enjoy writing is more important than teaching them to memorize techniques they'll never use again.” She enjoys researching into the different ways brain connections are established, and she uses her research to better enable the diverse community college population to grasp difficult concepts.

Dobbins appreciates her education at Western and chose it over other more prestigious schools like Chapel Hill because she loves the mountains and the hiking but especially because of the one-on- one interaction WCU offers.


These profiles were created by the Karen Greenstone's English 303 class (spring 2009)
and edited for the web by Mary Adams's English 303 class (summer 2009).

Students in Mary Adams's English 303 class (fall 2009) wrote additional profiles.