Carnegie Mellon University
November 05, 2015

Carolyn Commer and Ana Cooke Win Graduate Student Teaching Award

Carolyn Commer and Ana Cooke Carolyn Commer and Ana Cooke

Ph.D. in rhetoric candidates Carolyn Commer and Ana Cooke were selected as winners of the 2015 Department of English Graduate Student Teaching Award.

A faculty member or peer can nominate a graduate student for the award, which recognizes excellence in teaching.

In 2009, Commer began teaching ‘Interpretation and Argument’ at Carnegie Mellon University. She has also taught three upper level courses: ‘Writing for the Professions’ for three years, ‘Rhetorical Grammar’ and ‘Non-Profit Communication: Genres, Methods, and Issues’ for the last two years.

“The Teaching Award Committee was very impressed with Carolyn's entire teaching portfolio, which was polished and did an excellent job showcasing her many achievements,” said Marian Aguiar, director of graduate studies and associate professor of English.

She added, “During the committee's discussion, we were struck by how the portfolio presents a close relation between Carolyn's own teaching goals as was laid out in her submitted teaching philosophy, the reflections on learning contained in student letters, and the comments made by faculty observers.”

Commer said she learned how to put theory into public practice from Linda Flower, professor of English.

“Linda Flower’s ‘Leadership, Dialogue and Change’ course was a really transformational class for me,” she said. “What we did in that course with the Community Think Tank introduced me to other teaching methods.”

She said training from Teaching Professor and Director of First-Year Writing Program Danielle Wetzel was instrumental in her success early in her teaching career.

“Danielle encouraged me to draw from my own liberal arts background and my research interests in rhetoric to develop an integrated teaching style for first-year writing,” said Commer.

Cooke began teaching at CMU in 2010 when she joined the Ph.D. in rhetoric program. Currently, Cooke is teaching her tenth section of ‘Interpretation and Argument.’ She also taught ‘Teaching Writing Practicum I’ in 2014, the required teaching practicum course for all incoming Ph.D., MA and adjunct instructors who will be teaching ‘Interpretation and Argument.’

“Ana is one of the finest teachers in our university,” said John Oddo, assistant professor of English. “She systematically guides her students through difficult concepts, tailoring assignments to meet their needs, engaging with their interests and showing them how core lessons can be adapted for new situations.”

Like Commer, Cooke also said Wetzel's mentorship has made an impact on her – it’s given her a lot of opportunities to grow as an educator and scholar. As the Assistant Director of the First-Year Writing Program, Cooke works closely with Wetzel and develops and pilots new syllabi and course content for the first-year writing program, among other tasks.

Cooke said additional faculty members like Linda Flower, Suguru Ishizaki, David Kaufer and Chris Neuwirth were role models to her as teachers and as scholars who study communication or writing instruction.

“I’ve been fortunate to work with several faculty on research projects or in classes who’ve taught me a great deal not only about how to think about teaching writing, but how to approach research in communication and writing instruction,” said Cooke.

By Amanda King