Introduction

Prof. Emily Gwinn (she/her) has been a Residential faculty member in the English Department at GCC for 23 years. Prof. Gwinn received her B.A. in English from Butler University (1992), her M.A. in Comparative Literature from Arizona State University (1994), and her M.Ed. in Instructional Design from Arizona State University (1999).

Before coming to work at GCC, she worked as an editor, writer, and instructional designer for Arizona State University, The University of Phoenix, and Simon and Schuster Publishing.

Prof. Gwinn teaches ENG 101 Essay Writing, ENG 102 Research Writing, ENH/EDU 291 Children’s Literature, ENH 241 American Literature: Colonialism to 1865, and ENH 242 American Literature: 1865 to Present. 

Prof. Gwinn presented at the Heart of Teaching conference at Glendale Community College. She discussed how she got into teaching with OER and why she feels so passionately about lowering barriers to learning.

OER Journey

When I started working at GCC, the English Department required untenured faculty to use one of the textbooks that were chosen by a small committee. I found this to be stifling, especially since I had worked as a writer, editor, and instructional designer for years. I felt that my creativity was being censored and I longed for more freedom. As I was working toward earning my tenure, I discovered that some of my students were not completing their homework because they could not afford the textbook required for my classes. This revelation was painful to me. Students were being penalized for the great sin of not having enough money.

I experienced that same phenomenon when I was growing up in Indiana. My family was blue-collar, hard-working, and poor. My mother asked me when I was in my 30s if, as a child, I understood our reality. My response was, “Yes. I was always cold and hungry, and I knew better than to ask for anything.” She cried. While I understood that we didn’t have much money, I also understood that that was not my parent’s fault. They did the best they could, they worked hard, and they loved us fiercely. To be completely honest, it was because of my parents and upbringing that I chose to work at GCC.

For the first eight years of my career at GCC, I lived less than five minutes from Scottsdale Community College. I chose to drive 45 minutes one way to GCC to teach students who came from blue-collar, hard-working families like mine because I felt like I could make the biggest difference in their lives. I am a firm believer that everyone deserves a quality and affordable education.

My Irish father always told me that you spend “good” money on three things in life: shoes, a bed, and an education. Always buy good shoes because God willing you will have a job and be on your feet for at least eight hours a day. There is nothing worse than sore, tired, aching feet. Always buy a good mattress because God willing you will get eight hours of sleep a night. There is nothing worse than being exhausted and not being able to rest before another long day of work. And finally, always spend good money on education because God willing it will provide you with a career you love and it will raise you out of poverty. There is nothing more exhausting than going to a soul-crushing job that you are forced to keep in order to provide food and shelter for your family. My father was right on all three counts.

In addition to this stellar advice, my father instilled in me a love of reading and learning. When I was eight years old, I would sit at the breakfast table across from him, we would trade sections of the newspaper, and we would chat about interesting things we had read. When I left for college in 1988 and then for graduate school in 1992, we both continued to read the newspaper every morning and we would mail each other articles of interest. When either of us would receive mail, we would read the article enclosed and then call the sender to discuss it. That might sound nerdy, but I am a nerd, and my father and I wear that title with pride.

I really miss those calls. My father passed away 10 ½ years ago, but I have continued our ritual in his honor. Every morning I wake up and I read the news online from a variety of different sources. When I find interesting articles, I “mail” them to my GCC email account and I share them with my friends, family, colleagues, and students. The fact is that my interactions with my father turned me into a lifelong learner and I am fascinated by a wide variety of topics. As a result, all of my classes are 100% OER.

Takeaways

If you read my journey above and felt intimidated because I have been doing this for decades, don’t be. The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” I truly believe that he is right. After all, I had never taught online prior to being thrown into the deep end of the pool in March 2020. I was overwhelmed and outside of my comfort zone, to say the least. However, I am tenacious and diligent, and I know when to ask for help. I took a deep breath and tackled the challenge one day at a time with the guidance of some wonderful colleagues who were willing to teach and advise me.

Please know that you are not alone in your quest to develop OER resources for your classes. The OER Committee and the OER Librarians are here to help you take the first step on your journey. Reach out and we will reach back!

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The OER Spotlight reveals faculty in different departments across the campus to whom you can reach out to ask questions about OER. If they don’t know the answer, they are willing to help you find out. Contact Open Education @GCC for more information.

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