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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 learning.

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 children. 


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."

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.