My English Professor

Delta Winds cover 2007Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College


My English Professor

Latricia Tyson

In the poor social-economic environment that I live in, it is hard to look up to anyone because the people that have the values who make a person admirable are few and far between. So, for me, it has been a difficult and grueling task to find someone worth looking up to, but it is a task that I have accomplished. Since my first semester back to college, there has been one especially kind voice of wisdom and understanding in an ocean of many, a voice that I have come to admire significantly. Mr. Mark Slakey, an English Professor at San Joaquin Delta College, possesses the gift of a tremendously powerful educator. He has taught me to be a writer with a voice, and he has inspired me to become an educator with aspirations of being as successful as he has been. Professor Mark Slakey teaches with enthusiasm and energy while enhancing the speaking power of those of us who feel that we do not have a voice. And he gives back to the community.

Professor Slakey should have been an actor. He teaches with such compelling enthusiasm that watching him teach is like watching an exciting play or movie. He shares his life's experiences and personal practical knowledge to capture our attention and teach English writing skills and ideas. For example, Professor Slakey shared a story with my class about his Alaska fishing job when he was younger. He explained to us that he was, for the most part, "bored out of his mind while on these escapades." One day, he was so bored that he and some of his other shipmates decided to poke some fun by antagonizing one of their not-so-smart shipmates. As he stood at the front of the class, his eyebrows raised, his eyes widened, and his mouth dropped completely open as he told his story. His facial expressions took me out of the classroom and on to the boat with him. It was the sea voyage that I had never experienced, it was the joke that I never got to tell, and it was exciting. Most important, it was a vicarious experience that made me attentive and ready to learn. Who would have ever thought that English could be so lively, so tantalizing, and so much fun? Not everyone has the skills or the charisma to pull off an exciting and invigorating English class, but he does. Through his empowering charm he is capable of tightly holding his students' attention, which readies them for his lesson of the day.

After we are ready for the lesson, he uses an array of pedagogical knowledge and reflective teaching to make sure that every student comprehends the material. He realizes that there is more than one way to learn, so he uses different techniques and asks if we understand. Because he is a good teacher, he knows that we should have a three-to-five second wait time for responses, so he waits. Later, he asks if there was anything that he could have done to help us better understand. These two techniques make us feel that we are important and keep us connected to each other.

Thankfully, Professor Slakey knows that once he creates this bond with his students they'll have a better chance at success. I have always thought that I had a voice, but I was never sure that it was a voice that needed to be heard until I met Professor Slakey. In just a few short weeks, Professor Slakey's self-fulfilling prophecy made me comfortable enough to tell him anything, and I did. His ability to sit and attentively absorb every word is one of his most effective skills. For example, one of our essay assignments was to write about our community. While reading my essay "Love and Marriage," he seemed to be engrossed with my every word. His eyes moved from left to right with astonishing speed, his hands flipped page, after page, with eager anticipation, and his body sunk deep into the chair, as my essay developed and took on the form of literary art. After reading it, he simply said, "People need to know this." After much consideration, I decided that people needed to hear it, too. Therefore, I took Professor Slakey's advice and submitted my essay to the San Joaquin Delta College's Final Draft and, to my surprise, it was published.

Not only does he share his greatness with his students, but he also shares it with the less fortunate by being a wonderful foster parent. I have had the opportunity of meeting one of his foster children, and she was a beautiful and extremely intelligent little girl. LaQuesha spoke highly of Professor Slakey in just one simple word -- "Daddy." Many people may not understand just how important that one word is to a foster child, but I do, as I was a foster child who never called my foster parents "Mother" or "Father." He has taken on the hardest job in any community, which is to mend and heal the broken heart of a child, and he has made it look easy.

Mr. Slakey has a desire to bring about change, and the gift for doing so. He is a bright and shining inspiration to everyone that he meets; I am honored to have met such an outstanding role model, father and teacher. I hope that in the future the rest of his students are able to see Professor Slakey in the same light that I have and acknowledge the positive changes he may have brought about in them.