Douglas J. Troxell is a fabulous teacher and and an even better author. I worked with him for five years and I always admired his ability to write and teach at the same time, and, his general outlook on life has left me in absolute stitches. You may know him as a contributing author in The Book of Macabre or from his short story published in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable called "A Father's Burden." Hopefully you will have a chance to check out his new books The United States of Walmart and his young adult novel, 30 Days on a Rollercoaster, which are in the process of finding a publisher. I’ve asked Mr. Troxell to respond to some interview style questions for my next blog post and he kindly obliged:
Can you describe your teaching background/certifications?
This is lucky year 13 for me in the classroom. I’ve spent all 13 years teaching English/Language Arts classes at Lehigh Career and Technical Institute, one of the nation’s leading technical high schools. I received my teaching certificate and my B.A. in Creative Writing from Lycoming College in Williamsport where they play the Little League World Series (that’s pretty much their only claim to fame). I also have my Master's Degree in Creative Writing from Wilkes University.
“English teachers are a different kind of teacher.” Can you discuss that statement?
That’s very true. English teachers are weird. I’m not excluding myself from that statement. English teachers tend to be creative and passionate people. They’re writers, readers, lovers of the written word. Math teachers stand around and write formulas on boards. English teachers dress up in Shakespearean era clothes and rap sonnets. I’m proud to be a “different kind of teacher.”
Why did you become an English teacher?
I remember sitting in one of my first educational courses in college and everyone had to answer the following question: Why do you want to be a teacher? A majority of the class said they wanted to become a teacher because they “love kids.” Most of those people are no longer in the profession because the WORST thing you can do if you love kids is to become a teacher. Being a teacher is the most effective form of birth control out there. This was my answer pretty much word-for-word: “I want to be an English teacher because I want to work somewhere where I can listen to the sound of my own voice all day, boss people around, and talk about books that I love.” I’ll never forget the look on my professor’s face, but 13 years later I’m still in the profession, I’m passionate about what I do, and, not to toot my own horn (Toot! Toot!) but I’m pretty good at it, too.
Describe one/or a few of your greatest personal “achievements” in the classroom.
Teaching in a technical high school is an extremely unique experience. The students who attend technical high schools are often stereotyped as being dumb or “too stupid to go to ‘real’ high school” or underachievers who will never attend college. Nothing could be further from the truth. These are students who are learning skills for a specific career path and most of their technical training is extremely rigorous academically. One of my proudest achievements was bringing accelerated ELA classes to the Academic Center (these are our version of honors classes). Many people doubted our students could succeed in an accelerated class or even have the desire to sign up for a more rigorous class, but I’ve been running the class for seven years now and not only do the students do very well in the class but the majority of my seniors go on to two or four year universities. We’re working on bringing dual enrollment classes to the Academic Center where students will earn college credits while they’re still in high school.
Can you discuss an incident in the classroom and/or related to teaching that sent you home laughing for days?
One time I had to take the blame for a fart for a student. The students were reading silently and one student who shall forever go unnamed accidentally released a fart that I’m pretty sure he thought was going to be silent but totally wasn’t. This was not a student who would want that kind of attention, but it was clear from his expression that he was the culprit. The other students were intent on discovering the fart’s origin so I took the blame. The students knew it wasn’t me, but they thought the whole idea of me admitting to a fart that wasn’t mine was so ludicrous they gave up on discovering who actually unleashed the intruding blast. Not much reading was accomplished that day, let me tell you.
I like to leave my readers with something to chuckle about or just think about, so I'm going to leave you right there. More of Douglas J. Troxell's interview will be published next month! Stay tuned, but meanwhile, feel free to follow him on Twitter @douglastroxell and make sure you check out his website: douglasjamestroxell.com