~From English Department Communications Intern Kaitlyn Phillips
Recently I sat down with Rebecca Kennedy, a teacher with the English department for nearly 14 years before her retirement this past December, to find out all about her experiences at CSU and celebrate her for so much time spent with the English department.
How long were you at Colorado State and what did you teach while you were here?
[Nearly 14 years]. When I began at CSU I spent a lot of time teaching composition courses, and I’ve always taught literature, though more so in the later part of my time here. The literature courses I taught included humanities, Shakespeare, World Drama, American Literature, and British Literature, both one and two.
What was your time before CSU like, and what brought you to Colorado State?
Well I did my undergraduate at Texas Tech as a double major in English Literature and History. After that I taught for five years in public schools in Texas before I got my masters in literature at Texas State University. Then I taught at Texas State for 17 years until I moved to Colorado. As far as what brought me to CSU, my kids went out of state for college and were all out of the house, and my husband and I both loved Colorado, so when he applied for the math department here, I applied for the English department, and we both go the jobs!
What was your favorite class to teach at CSU?
Now that’s a hard question, because I really did love them all! I enjoyed teaching the composition courses because there was always a wide variety of students, not necessarily English majors. The literature class I taught most often was British Literature II, but I love teaching all kinds of literature because I love reading all kinds of literature.
What was your most memorable moment at CSU?
Once I was teaching Frankenstein, and it was near the end of the class period and everyone was packing up, and I said something like, “The monster taught us what The Beatles were saying in 1967: (sings) ‘All you need is love,’” and the entire class responded with “‘da da da da da, all you need is love!” And they sang it all the way out the door and down the hall. Those are my favorite moments, the spontaneous ones, the ones that just happen without any planning. I had a lot of those in my time here at CSU; I’d say in all my years, every semester a moment like that would happen at least once.
If you could give students in the English department any advice, what would it be?
Well the students here have always impressed me; they’re good readers, writers, and critical thinkers. They do such a good job analyzing literature. I guess my advice would be that the best students show real insight and imagination, and if you give a lot to the task of your reading and writing and analyzing, you’ll get big rewards, not just from the teachers and the assignments, but in life. Reading and writing and thinking are an important part of any career, of anyone’s life, and if you can critically think and show imagination, you’ll go far.
What was your favorite book to teach?
I do like teaching students material they haven’t encountered. My favorite material to teach os material they haven’t covered — Don Quixote, Candide, Tolstoy. Students come having covered a lot of American and British literature, so it’s nice to teach Heart of Darkness, Canterbury Tales, Shakespeare’s historical plays — I like when students read something they’re unfamiliar with and say “oh, I liked that!” And to see how much they amaze themselves when they like something new or difficult.
What is your favorite thing about retirement so far?
I was so happy with my career, a 35 year career teaching English, and I found myself so satisfied at the end of it. My last semester at CSU was a high note to end on, and because of all these things, I think, retirement has been so satisfying. I’ve been doing more volunteer work and visiting my kids out of state (which is something you don’t get to do very often when you’re teaching!). I’m planning a trip back to Texas, to visit family and relax. And I’ve been reading, of course! Now that I’m not reading to what I’m teaching I’ve found myself reading just a variety of books, from Skipping Christmas by John Grisham to Breakfast at Tiffany’s to A Picture of Dorian Grey. After 35 years of teaching and two degrees, there are still more books to read.
Finally, if you could describe your experience at CSU in one word, what would it be?
I suppose it would have to be “Terrific,” and I’ll tell you why. I found myself using that word a lot, instead of “wonderful” or “great” on a student’s writing I would write “Terrific!” Or in class I would say “Terrific idea!” Well soon my students started picking up on it and I found that it’s contagious — they started using it more, too. And I just thought, we don’t use that word enough. And my experience here really has been terrific.
It was a pleasure to sit down with Rebecca Kennedy to talk about her experiences here at Colorado State. As I’m sure any of her former students will tell you, she has an infectious energy and a kindness that shows in everything she does, and the English Department was lucky to have her for as long as we did. I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say we’re wishing her well in her retirement, and thank her for all that she did here at CSU.