“I think there’s a lot of pressure on students, especially our younger population,
to pick a career path right away,” says Taten Sheridan, Associate Professor and Chair
of College Preparatory and Development Studies at Kodiak College. “That can be great for some people, but for others, that’s a lot of pressure. One of the benefits
of college is the opportunity to take classes in different areas and see what you
are actually interested in, and having some of that independence
and time to think.” He encourages that mindset for Kodiak College students by creating thoughtful, relevant writing projects in the courses he teaches.
“I really enjoy having assignments that allow them to explore themselves and their identity. Like in Writing 111, they find an image and write about themselves. Students are exploring their own histories and backgrounds, a lot end up thinking about family. And the profile essay is a lot of fun because then they get to know somebody else. I encourage them to pick someone who’s in a career field they’re interested in so they get to explore that career a little bit. Then we move into the research paper and they get to pick a topic they want to learn about. That sequence of assignments allows them to explore themselves, others, and ideas.”
When he graduated from high school, he says, “I didn’t know where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to play ball and be in school.” The first college he went to wasn’t a great fit. So he played baseball at a junior college, College of the Siskiyous, where he earned an associate’s degree in general studies.
“The teachers I had there were very influential in my interest in writing. I took
screenwriting and other classes from an instructor who was absolutely amazing. They
were a big part of why I’m doing what I do now. Because they were really student focused.
One of the reasons I like being at a community campus is that students aren’t a number.
individualize our instruction, our advising, and the experience for them. That’s something that I had during that time.”
“I just kinda took classes, and the writing and English classes were the ones I enjoyed most. I was editor of the school paper for a while, and I realized this was the direction I wanted to go.” He earned a Bachelor’s in Communication from York College, and a MFA in Creative Writing from the University of New Orleans.
During graduate school, he took a teaching assistantship to help with tuition. “I
really hadn’t thought about teaching as a career until that time,” he says. “I didn’t
know that I wanted to be a teacher until I was teaching.”
Taten took advantage of overseas opportunities like a summer semester in Venezuela and a university teaching position in Morocco. That was a wonderful experience, he says, teaching alongside faculty from all over the world, and taking the Cinema Club to the Mediterranean Film Festival in Tetouan.
When he became coordinator of the Learning Center at Kodiak College in 2014, his goal was to make it a second home for students on campus, “where students feel safe, and valued, and feel there’s support and there are people there rooting them on.”
“Tutoring is an important part of the learning journey. There’s no grades involved, so students can really just come in and tutors can focus on whatever it is they need at that time. We can meet them where they are. Tutoring often becomes a mentorship type of experience. When students realize how helpful it can be, they come back and we get to know them, and that’s one of the things I love about learning centers.”
“I’m really proud of our tutors and our students here at Kodiak College. Our tutors
have really stepped up with online tutoring, and with helping students during this
Covid time. And I’m proud of our students for persevering through a challenging time.
There are a lot of people who have really struggled during this time from the switch
to mostly online learning and that lack of
connection, that’s one of the things our tutoring staff have been absolutely able to help provide, is to provide students that connection during a time when maybe that's kind of lacking in other aspects of people’s lives. For students to stick with their studies and keep taking classes and really pushing through that has been amazing, so I’m really proud of the work that our students have done these last couple of years.”
Another program that he oversees is the Accelerated Learning Program—which allows students to combine WRTG A111 and WRTG A110 in back-to-back classes with the same instructor and lots of individualized instruction. The scholarships available to KOC students for these credits provide incentive and reward for putting in the extra time and effort.
Taten grew up in Sitka and Palmer, so the move to Kodiak was a welcome return to Alaska after teaching in Wyoming, Morocco, and Maryland. Taten and his wife, Jen, have two girls they're raising to appreciate outdoor adventures like salmon fishing, summer hiking, berry picking, foraging and canning. There’s no shortage of things to do and learn here.
“Kodiak is wonderful for that,” he says. “We’re a small town, but Kodiak has a lot
to offer. I think part of it is that we’re not on the road system. As an island we’ve
had to develop activities for ourselves–there are tons of sports activities, and extracurricular
options like karate and dance, Kodiak Arts Council, the Alutiiq preschool program.
A lot of small towns on the road system would have to drive to those.”
They’re a family of avid readers who frequent the Kodiak Public Library. A forever favorite read-aloud with Iris and Calla is "Ten Minutes till Bedtime", by Peggy Rathmann. Taten says he generally loves whatever he’s reading in the moment. Lately he’s been reading lots of graphic novel memoirs and historical fiction. He just finished Sally Heathcote: Suffragette. Taten
also previously served on the Kodiak Public Library Association board and has helped with the library’s annual book sale and with Dog Eared Reads, a KPLA radio program on KMXT.
“My family and I have been really involved in activities like the community cleanup
events held by the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce and local nonprofit organizations. We really like doing these as a family–they're
a great way to help clean up our community and a fantastic hands-on experience for
kids to see how people can come together to accomplish something.
They're able to visually see what they've accomplished by filling bags with trash, and how quickly those can add up when everyone pitches in!”
What Taten values most about being at a community campus like Kodiak College is helping students. “With students just starting out, or coming back and returning after years to start a second career–having that opportunity to help them through that journey is wonderful,” he says. “I love working with students and helping them reach their goals and succeed and go wherever they want to go. Or if they were like me and undecided, helping them to figure out what they want to do, that’s something I love about teaching.”