Former English prof goes back to school

Dr. Sharon Ganslen is a student, sitting in classrooms next to students she taught at UMHB just a few years before.

Ganslen double majored in English and physics at Notre Dame College in Ohio.

“That was in the age of science … John Kennedy’s ‘We’re going to put a man on the moon in this next decade’ …. If you had half a brain you were supposed to go into science,” Ganslen said.

Through her college experience, she learned how much she loved English. It was easy for her.

“I started teaching junior high … and then a year later I got married with three priests and a saber detail,” she said.

“Because I was certified to teach secondary English, I got this position teaching the basic skills classes for the Army through Big Bend Community College in Washington state, and later Temple University in Philly,” Ganslen said.

Carole Neary and Sharon Ganslen (right) discuss class materials. Photo by Joseph Warren

She taught the service members overseas in Germany in two time blocks each day, 8 to 12 p.m. and 1 to 5 p.m. The men held reading levels comparable to a fourth-grader.

“I got back to the States, and I was angry that these kids were walking around with high school diplomas and reading at the fourth-grade level,” Ganslen said.

She began teaching at UMHB in 1989, but at the end of her first semester she was diagnosed with leukemia.

“For a few years it took all of my energy to teach and keep up with doctors’ appointments,” Ganslen said.

After recovering from leukemia, she taught at the university for 20 years, and offi cially retired in May 2009.

“I estimate I worked with nearly 2000 students over the years. Now I am enjoying a self-directed sabbatical. I am taking some literature classes I always wanted to take from my friends and colleagues in the English department. These dedicated professors are all excellent teachers, and I am enjoying the challenge of being a student again,” she said.

When teaching, she helped under-prepared students become better writers.

“Many of them come in and say ‘what do you mean I have to take this class? I got As and Bs in high school.’ ‘Well, you shouldn’t have.’ So it takes them a while to get the chip off their shoulder, but then it becomes a teamwork thing. Tell me what you need, and I’ll help you get it,” Ganslen said. “I used to tell my students ‘I don’t know where the holes are in your grammar Swiss cheese …. We’re not blaming anybody, we’re just trying to fill in the holes.”

Ganslen lives in Harker Heights with her husband, Greg.

“I’m happy to be here, I’m very happy to be taking classes from friends, former colleagues …. As long as I’m learning something I didn’t know before, I can get into it completely,” Ganslen said.

Professor of the Department of English Dr. Sarah Brown has known Ganslen since 2000, and she is teaching two remedial writing classes in Ganslen’s stead this semester. She said Ganslen will be missed.

“Her greatest characteristics are her generosity and her care for others,” Brown said.

Ganslen doesn’t stop at generosity to students.

“When I defended my dissertation, when I came back my door was decorated (with) a big sign that (said) ‘Doctor Brown’ and balloons and so forth. And she did that several times for different people,” Brown said.

Junior English major 8th through 12th certification Theresa Johnson took Ganslen’s grammar and composition class her freshman year.

“Even when we couldn’t come to class, she was one that would come out of her way to make sure we got what we needed,” Johnson said. “It also helped me to get through the rest of the school year, because just knowing that I had her class, and that there was somebody that cared about the students, I just enjoyed school my freshman year.”

Ganslen never became bored with remedial English courses.

“There are so many light bulb moments … where your student finally gets it, and that’s always so gratifying,” she said.

Graduations remind her of past students.

“I have them their first semester freshman year, or maybe second semester freshman year. So I’m always gratified at graduation when I recognize a name.”

Ganslen said students can always improve.

“The only time I ever get angry with faculty is when they say ‘oh, he just can’t do it.’ Yes he can. Don’t tell him he can’t do it. Don’t tell yourself he can’t do it.”

Author: The Bells Staff

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