Bio: Dr. Chris Drew received his B.S. in theater at the University of Evansville in 1999 before going to get his MA in teaching at Oakland City University. In 2007, he went back to get an MFA in creative writing at Oregon State University. He then went to University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee to receive his PhD in English in 2014. He has previously taught at both the middle and high school level, but is currently an assistant professor in the department of English who teaches grammar, creative writing, and composition.
Q: Why do you teach English?
A: So, my undergraduate degree is in theater, and I had no intention of being an English teacher. By the time I finished my theater degree, I knew I didn’t want to be an actor anymore either, so I immediately went into a master’s degree in teaching. The guy that looked at my transcript when I came in was like, “Well, you have a creative writing minor, so we’ll say that you can teach English.” So, in some ways, I teach English because of a very permissive teaching program supervisor. Then, though, I taught middle school and high school for five years and really enjoyed it. I decided to go back to grad school, though. Once that happened, I sort of stayed on
the English track, but I actually went to grad school for creative writing, and I got this job largely because I had gotten a PhD in English and also taught secondary, so it was very roundabout: no real plan. I just sort of kept falling into things and landed where I landed.
Q: Why did you come to ISU?
A: When you get a PhD, and an MFA in creative writing, you apply mostly for creative writing jobs. I wasn’t getting a lot of interest from the schools because so many people were applying and I didn’t have a book published. I found this one, though, and it was like “PhD in English, secondary teaching experience,” and I was like, “well I have both of those things,” and I like talking about teaching.
Q: Tell me about the book you’re working on.
A: Actually, there are two. So, I had to figure out a way to make my experience with creative writing fit with this other position of how to teach English. I had a background in creative writing pedagogy, which is basically how to teach creative writing. I realized—when I started looking—that nobody is doing that work at the secondary level. So, I went to a conference, and when you go to conferences, this tends to happen: you start talking about ideas and they’re like “That’s a great idea.” So, two of the people that I started talking to about it (one of them is Dr. Ash here in our department and the other is a guy named Mike Clark at Azusa Pacific University) have also taught secondary school, and I was like, “Why don’t we put together a book on teaching creative writing at the secondary level?” That just doesn’t exist right now. So, we’re trying to put it out there as this thing that secondary teachers who want to use creative writing in their curriculums, they can pick up this book and it will actually be useful. The other book is a fiction book. That one is actually about the county I grew up in down in southern Indiana, and it’s about coal mining and the coal miners are losing their jobs, and the coal mines that are open aren’t really safe. It’s sort of like this family drama that’s set in that coal
mining community. It has the virtue of not being a place that anybody writes about, so I figured I’d write about it.
Q: Do you have any advice for English majors?
A: I don’t think English majors realize, when they manage to make it through a Faulkner novel, or Shakespeare, and write about it and actually be somewhat intelligent in what they say that that is a skill that transfers all over the place: far, far away from English departments. In today’s world, the reality is that most people can’t read critically. Most people can’t write well. The trick is, of course, convincing an employer you have that skill set. There’s this whole idea that a liberal arts degree is not what you want to get today. I would argue that it’s the most useful degree you can get, but I’m a little evangelical about that kind of stuff. And, of course, there’s also the answer of enjoying your time here. You’re never, unless you go to grad school, going to so much time and reason to read so many interesting things. They
don’t always seem interesting, but they are. Even Shakespeare.
Q: What is your favorite hobby?
A: I have recently, after ten years away from it, gotten into making beer again. It’s a very detailed process, and it’s interesting. Plus, I’m a big fan of learning to do things that most people have no reason to do anymore. I feel like for all the advancements we make, it leads to us forgetting how to do things people used to know how to do, so I kind of like learning those things.
Q: What is something that students would never guess about you?
A: I think sometimes students are surprised to learn that I have tattoos. You never really think about that, but it’s not unusual today, so maybe students wouldn’t be surprised by that, who knows.
Q: Describe the ideal student.
A: The ideal student will speak in class, at least occasionally, and will be intellectually curious, but also not think that they know all of the answers. I think that the student who is curious and motivated and engaging is ideal, but I think that the student who wants to learn something is all it is. If they’re quiet, but still learning, that’s ideal, too. I just might not realize it.