Educational equity is Bedford New Scholar Leah Beth Johnston's hope for higher ed

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Leah Beth JohnstonLeah Beth Johnston (recommended by Elías Domínguez Barajas) is pursuing her PhD in English with a concentration in Rhetoric and Composition at the University of Arkansas. She will finish her degree in 2022. Her research focuses on First-Year Composition administration and Marginal Rhetorics, and her dissertation is a book that explores the intersection of the two. A former faculty member at Texas A&M University-San Antonio, Leah Beth hopes to return to Texas upon finishing her PhD. 

How do you hope higher education will change in the next ten years?

I hope that in the next ten years, higher education will change drastically. We will always be operating in a system whose foundation was built on white supremacy and exclusionary tactics, but I hope that white educators, in particular, will begin to interrogate their own biases and privileges in a way that positively changes higher education as a whole. Teaching at a PWI has illuminated for me how far we still have to go before educational equity will exist, and has also reinforced my respect for the many folx on the margins of universities creating small but equitable spaces for historically oppressed identities. 

Is there an instructor or scholar that helped shape your career in rhet/comp? How? 

My current advisor, Dr. Jo Hsu, has significantly helped to shape my career in Rhet/Comp. I learn a lot from their example of showing up, showing grace, and doing small but great things. Many faculty members in higher education view teaching as something they do to exercise their own research agendas, but Jo has always been excited and encouraging about their students’ own research, and their genuine love of teaching is obvious in the classroom. I hope to someday be half the teacher they are. 

What's it like to be a part of the Bedford New Scholars program?

Being part of the Bedford New Scholars program has been such an honor! That feels cheesy to say, but spending this year having insight into educational publishing, being able to offer input on texts that may show up in classes I teach, and traveling to Boston to network among top scholars in my field has been the privilege of a lifetime. The workload throughout the year was structured in such a way that my own research and teaching did not suffer, and the overall support provided by the Bedford/St. Martin’s team has been amazing. 

What have you learned from other Bedford New Scholars?

During our New Scholars Summit in Boston, I learned something from each and every fellow scholar, whether it was a new author to read, a technique for lesson planning, or an idea to incorporate digital elements into the classroom. I especially enjoyed a team-building activity where we each wrote our priorities as teachers on a large piece of paper, then had the opportunity to review one another’s answers. I found that many of our priorities, concerns, and triumphs overlap, which gave me a sense of where Composition is as a whole right now, insight that is invaluable for my career and my own pedagogy. 

Leah Beth Johnston’s Assignment that Works

During the Bedford New Scholars Summit, each member presented an assignment that had proven successful or innovative in their classroom. Below is a brief synopsis of Leah Beth's assignment. You can view the full details here: Emoji Revision Assignment

For this lesson, review what emoji is and make sure everyone has a working understanding of how to access emoji on their device. Then, pass out movie title slips individually or into groups of 2-4, depending on class size. Ask students to revise not the movie title, but the movie plot, into emoji language. This may require some research if they are not familiar with the movie. Remind students that even if they have seen the movie, they may want to review the main themes before revising the plot into emoji. As each student/group finishes their revision, they will take a screenshot of the “sentence” and email it to the instructor. Once all revisions have been sent, the instructor projects them at the front of the classroom, and the entire class discusses them one by one to guess which movie they are referring to. 

After completing this assignment, students will have a basic literacy in emoji language and digital discourse. Students will be able to conduct internet research, and apply this research to summarizing texts. Students will also be able to understand the concept of a multimodal text, and will be able to connect the activity to their own revision processes.

Learn more about the Bedford New Scholars advisory board on the Bedford New Scholars Community page.

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This is the shared account for the Bedford New Scholars TA Advisory Board.