How Sarah Heidebrink-Bruno hopes higher ed will embrace education as a truly equalizing experience

Macmillan Employee
Macmillan Employee
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Photo Credit: Kyle BrettPhoto Credit: Kyle BrettSarah Heidebrink-Bruno (recommended by Jenna Lay) is pursuing her PhD in English, with a concentration in literature and social justice pedagogies, at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. She expects to finish her degree in 2020 or 2021. She teaches a range of composition and rhetoric courses, including English 1, 2, and 11, in addition to interdisciplinary courses in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies as well as Africana Studies. She has also taught online courses in English and WGSS, with a focus on pop culture themes, including modern relationships. Her research interests include restorative justice practices, women's literature of the 1960s-present, feminist theory and praxis, and writing center tutors' instruction.


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

In the next ten years, I hope to see folks in higher education intentionally divorce themselves from the “ivory tower” image and embrace education as a truly equalizing experience — by prioritizing access to the most vulnerable and historically marginalized among us, including BIPOC, LGBTQIA folks, and differently abled, faculty, and staff. I would like to see a concerted effort to serve the community in which colleges and universities are located, in ways that the community deems desirable and appropriate. Moreover, I’d love for all of the stakeholders in colleges and universities to have a greater focus on holistic students’ experiences — ideally, academic and student affairs would work in tandem to recognize students as complex young adults, rather than essentializing one aspect of their identities in one space. 


How does the next generation of students inspire you?

I am constantly inspired by my students. Though my colleagues have sometimes suggested that students are generally apathetic and only interested in getting good grades/a degree, I think this stereotype ignores the larger structural issues that students must face in order to not feel the pressure to just “get it done.” In my experiences, I have been lucky to see students blossom through their research and writing processes into conscientious young adults who have strong values and ideas about the ways in which education — and the world — can change. They constantly amaze me with their curiosity and their willingness to ask difficult questions and challenge ideas that seem untrue or unjust. 


What have you learned from other Bedford New Scholars?

I relished the opportunity to learn with and from my fellow Bedford New Scholars during our summer orientation meetings. Specifically, I really liked learning about the different writing assignments and classroom activities that my peers have used — which I am eager to try myself! I learned a lot from their feedback and insight on my work, which I intend to use to improve my teaching this coming semester. Finally, it was reassuring to hear that we are all facing similar struggles, especially at this difficult time, and that they were willing to share different solutions and moral support for dealing with these challenges. 


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

I really appreciated the chance to meet and work with the dedicated staff at Macmillan who organize the BNS program. I admit that I had little insight into the publishing world and the process that scholars undergo as they progress from an idea to a fully-formed reference guide or handbook, etc., but I enjoyed learning about the inner mechanisms of the publishing world and the ways in which writers seek feedback from their peers as well as their editors throughout the process. (Admittedly, it was also cool to see exclusive content prior to its public release!) It was clear to me how much the editors and staff members really care about the authors they work with and that they are dedicated to producing thoughtful and helpful teaching materials (among other products).


Sarah Heidebrink-Bruno’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 Sarah’s assignment. For the full activity, see Student Information Sheet.

For my “assignment that works,” I shared a version of my Student Information Sheet, a form that I typically hand out during the first week of class as a way to 

  1. Establish the tone of the course;
  2. Get to know more about my students and their learning needs; 
  3. And finally, gather information that I then use when I am lesson planning. 

In the sheet, I ask them about their preferred names (if any), their pronouns (if they feel comfortable sharing that information with me), and what kinds of learning environment and activities they prefer. For example, I include a list of possible activities, such as Think-Pair-Share, answering questions in small groups, Check Out tickets, and more. They can either check off boxes in the list of options or add additional suggestions.

After everyone has completed the sheet, we then discuss how we best learn and what kind of learning spaces have been the most impactful. I tell them about my own learning and teaching techniques that have worked for me in the past, with an explicit emphasis on the fact that I need and expect for them to give me feedback on pedagogical choices and activities in the classroom to make sure that I am reaching folks where they are.

I will note that although I’ve used a hard copy of this form in the past, it would be very easy to create a version in Google forms (or another digital space), which would also allow the instructor to easily see what the most popular choices are. The instructor could then use that information for an ice-breaker activity or discussion at the beginning of the next class.

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