Catherine Engstrom


Office:419 Ross
527 Farm House Ln.
Ames IA



Courses I am Teaching

  • English 150 and 250 (Freshman English, often for Ag Learning Communities)
  • English 302 (Business Communications, sometimes for Ag Learning Communities)
  • English 397 (Practice and Theory of Teaching Writing in the Secondary Schools)
  • English 417 (supervising student teachers from English department out in the field)

Purdue University (English, emphasis in Rhetoric)
Iowa State University (English major, speech minor, secondary ed. teaching license)

About My Teaching

My career path often meanders. After graduating with an English major from ISU, I taught high school English, speech, and debate in my home state of South Dakota. Once I completed my MA from Purdue, my young family and I moved a lot for the first few years, so I taught in diverse college situations: four-year-universities, private colleges, community colleges, and off-site education (air force base, rural town, maximum security prison). Many of these jobs included tutoring in the writing center, so I love helping my current students in one-on-one conferences. After more than a decade of college teaching, I switched to the nonprofit world, most recently as communications director for a nonprofit conservation group. In 2011 I felt called to return to teaching. Because I learn so much from my students, I enjoy class containing diverse backgrounds, abilities, and world views. I take a practical “how can you use this?” approach to communications.

How I came to Teach what I Teach
Since my parents ran a small-town weekly newspaper, I started writing at a young age, aced my high school English courses, and thought I knew it all. Imagine my horror when I got a C on my first ISU English paper (in an honors section what’s now called English 150). I finally worked up the courage to discuss the paper with my professor and learned more in those 20 minutes than I thought possible. I still regard my two freshman composition classes as among the most useful college courses I ever took. Meanwhile, that professor and many others in ISU’s English department, made time to talk whenever I stopped by their offices – giving me good advice about English and life in general. They made a positive difference in my life, so now I try to pay that forward with my own students.

As for working with student teachers, I taught high school English, speech and debate. I have been supervising student teachers for about 10 years, and I love the chance to help launch talented young teachers into the career field.

As for working with ag learning communities, my previous job involved working with Iowa landowners who place voluntary conservation protections on their natural lands (parcels of prairie, wetlands, etc.). This job gave me an enormous respect for Iowa’s rural landowners and their connection to their land, so I jumped at the chance to work with ISU’s ag majors when the opportunity arose.

Outside of the University
I married a guy I met while we were both undergrads at ISU—and it’s still working out! He recently became a full-time science fiction writer, so I help edit his books and occasionally attend sci fi conventions. When commuting to ISU or working around the house, I’m a huge fan of NPR, podcasts, and audiobooks. I also like to collect quilts, travel, and read.