Teaching in Istanbul: Karen McKinney
By Daniel Heilig
Istanbul is not the usual city for a graduate from Western
Carolina University to be working— especially a woman
with a bachelor's degree in English Literature and a doctorate
in Native American literature. But at the private institution
of Özyeğin University, McKinney teaches her students
the writing techniques and English language skills they have
yet to gain from other courses. Her students know some
English, but are not fluent.
A day in her life
McKinney teaches two to five hours of class a day and provides
individual tutorials to some of her students.
Many other teachers in this area find it hard to instruct
some of the students, often referring to them as "goldfish,"
implying that they are simple and dumb. But not McKinney,
who finds daily rewards and challenges in this unusual environment.
Her classroom is equipped with laptops for each student, a
projector, and basic textbooks for the class. As a teacher,
she often likes adding interesting video clips to facilitate
The trip to the university from her home is approximately
45 minutes, and awaiting McKinney there are her two sons Joel,
11, and Aaron, 7. Joel and Aaron are schooled at their
home with the aid of tutors. After she has gone over
her children's lessons for the day, McKinney cooks dinner
and sends her boys out to play with the neighboring Turkish
McKinney finds inspiration in this new life, though many
would find it strange. "I am inspired by beauty whether in
a passage from a Louise Erdrich or a Tony Hillerman novel,
the morning sunlight on the pastel colored buildings of Istanbul,
or the lined face of a gypsy woman wearing a lace-trimmed
headscarf," McKinney explains. " I am driven by
the desire to live my life on my own terms."