Instructor Spotlight: Amy Walton Teaches and Learns Through the Process

CATEGORIES: Foundation Courses
Amy Walton

The assistant director of ISUComm Foundation courses and an associate teaching professor, Amy Walton’s career in education has taken many different forms since her undergraduate years. Walton graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English and French Education from the University of Northern Iowa, where she discovered an interest in linguistics and rhetoric alongside literary analysis. She began her teaching career teaching French, English, and Computer Science at Washington High School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which at the time was the designated high school for ESL programs in the city. Walton enjoyed working with students in this program, considering the intersections of ESL curriculums and broader composition/language curriculums, which ultimately inspired her to pursue her Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages/ Applied Linguistics and an ESL Endorsement for teaching K-12 at Iowa State University in 2011. While Walton initially intended to return to the high school classroom in eastern Iowa, her partner was hired on for his dream job in Des Moines, and Walton received employment opportunities to lecture for ENGL 150 and ENGL 250 at ISU; they settled in Central Iowa together shortly thereafter for their new career ventures.

When considering how her background in multiple areas of education informs her pedagogical approach to the ISUComm Foundation Courses, Walton stated how during her time in the Master of Arts program she noticed many English departments are segmented into categories (linguistics, communications, creative writing, etc.); the more Walton worked with the program, though, Walton began to see how there were possibilities for the different categories to intersect in composition programs. Walton also felt her time teaching in ESL programs allowed her to engage with students with varied backgrounds and proficiencies in the foundation space of composition, understanding all students entering secondary education, regardless of their background, were learning new ways of writing and communicating at the college level: “I have the belief if you are teaching in a way that is supportive of people learning the language, it’s better for all your students. It’s more inclusive and effective for everyone.” During her time in the ISUComm Foundation and Communication program, Walton has found the mentoring aspect of teaching ENGL 500 to be the most rewarding, as her skills and experience allow her to support new TAs and current faculty to discover informed and intersectional approaches to composition instruction, as well as developing autonomous approaches to pedagogy.

In her current projects, Walton is working on a grant with Elena Cotos and Sarah Davis through the Department of State in relation to the Developing and Teaching Academic Writing Courses (DATAW), which teaches English instructors globally how to develop and teach a writing course in an eight week professional development course. The process of developing this course, and working with instructors from across the world, allowed Walton to observe how many different approaches there are to academic writing, making visible to all students what underlying expectations and values are present in academic writing, how to navigate cultural differences in the academic space, and finding common ground in rhetoric and best practices across this vast array of experiences and backgrounds. DATAW launched at ISU in spring 2022; Walton’s role since launch has shifted toward a teacher/leader role, working with a team of other instructors to bring new TAs into the program. Outside of DATAW, Walton worked alongside Abram Anders to develop the mentoring program for new TAs in Spring terms, which focuses on a strength-based, mentee-led approach instead of a more surveillance/discipline focused mentoring program, in the hopes of facilitating a positive educational culture for instructors in the ISUComm Foundation program.

Beyond the ISUComm Foundation program, Walton teaches ELL Methods and World Language Methods to undergraduate students. Initially, she was asked to develop 318 as a hybrid course to address scheduling conflicts with Education majors in fall 2022, Walton was asked to pilot a combined version of these courses (ENGL 318), which allows teachers to consider differences in population, how second language and foreign language practices in learning intersect while also revealing their differences, and focuses on culturally responsive pedagogy. In recent years Walton also worked to develop several iterations of ENGL 220: Descriptive English Grammar as an online course. Reflecting on the experience of developing these new courses, and her work in improving the ISUComm Foundation program, Walton said: “You know what, it’s a new challenge, and I’m going to learn more through the process! I like new challenges and I embrace them and find success through these new experiences.”

Amy Walton’s consistent willingness to experiment, to see where intersections lie across departments and different approaches to English-related pedagogy, and to challenge herself when obstacles arise for students and instructors alike demonstrates her excellence as an instructor, mentor, and leader in the Iowa State University English Department.