by BRITTNY STEGALL//Staff Writer
One professor’s passion changed the moment she stepped into her first classroom.
Dr. Sara English, professor of American Minority Studies, has been teaching for 24 years. Before she became a professor, she attended Mississippi State University to get her undergraduate degree in sociology. She later worked for the welfare department, then as a director of aging services. She also worked in public relations at a hospital, and lastly at a graphic design firm.
Later, at the age of 43, she moved from Mississippi to Lubbock. Divorced with a 5-year-old son, she went back to graduate school at Texas Tech University, where she started pursuing a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy.
But after one semester, she realized that wasn’t for her. She decided to get her master’s and a PH.D. in Human Development and Family Studies. With the struggle of having a son, going back to school, and working part-time as an instructor for the HDFS department, it took Dr. English 10 years to complete her studies.
Although Dr. English’s family has worked in education, she didn’t have that in mind for herself.
“I had no desire to be a teacher growing up,” says Dr. English. “My mother taught high school physics and chemistry. My aunt taught college math, and my sister was a middle school math teacher. Part of my degree was working as a graduate part-time instructor.”
Dr. English said she didn’t know what to expect when she began her teaching career.
“I walked into a classroom having no clue how on earth I could “teach” for an hour, shaking and nervous, but it worked,” said Dr. English. “I haven’t looked back since.”
Dr. English said that American Minorities Studies is not about what most students think it is.
“Most students think this class is only about race,” said Dr. English. “However, we explore human categories such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexualities, socioeconomic class, and more from a power and privilege perspective.”
Dr. English said that each one of us has membership in each of these categories.
“Each of us lives these categories every day, at work, at home, at school, at church, at ball games,” says Dr. English. “Men are privileged over women, whites over people of color, etc… and our choices, challenges, and support are shaped by humanly contrived categories.”
The course content is personal, reaching students on a personal level.
“I illustrate these topics with classic commentaries, analyses, documentaries and research from history, economics, physiology, sociology, medicine,” says Dr. English. “I pose uncomfortable questions. I push buttons, because the course content is personal. These categories define each one of us.”
According to Dr. English, she uses current events in her classroom to keep the students up to date with the world around them.
“I spend a lot of time perusing media and other sources daily to keep up,” says Dr. English. “The election this year has been a rich source for race, class, gender, religion, immigration, income, inequality, and sex.”
Each year, Dr. English spreads her message of encouragement to her present and future students.
“I tell my students each semester that I will learn as much about humanity from them as they from me,” says Dr. English. “We are both teachers and learners, and this class helps you understand our differences at deeper levels than what the news, the media, Facebook, Twitter and the conversations around the proverbial dinner table with friends and family. It is new ways to see the world.”