To say Mandy George wears a lot of hats wouldn't do her justice. The Saint Leo University adjunct writing instructor has her hand in a number of activities that mainly revolve around serving her community.

A native of Norfolk, Va., the mother of two sons, Jacob and Nathan, teaches writing at Saint Leo's Norfolk Education Office. Her late father, John Erbes, was a senior chief in the U.S. Navy. Her son, Jacob, currently serves in the U.S. Air Force.

Saint Leo has also been a bit of a family affair. George's mother, Carol Erbes, has also served as an adjunct instructor at Saint Leo for over 20 years. She teaches several sociology courses at the university's South Hampton Roads Education Center and at its Langley Education Office.

George attained an associate's degree in emergency medical services and a bachelor's in English and theater from Old Dominion University, along with a master's in professional writing from ODU. She is now more than halfway through completing her master's in emergency and disaster management from Saint Leo.

From Emergencies to Sighs of Relief

For over seven years, she has worked as a full-time firefighter-paramedic with the Chesapeake Fire Department.

"My husband, Mark, was a captain in the Norfolk Fire Department," she recalls. "He introduced me to this type of work and thought I'd enjoy it. I love being out in the field."

Most of the calls she and her team receive are for medical emergencies. She is thrilled to be able to step in to any challenging situation and make a difference.

"I truly enjoy helping people," she says. "I get to be there on someone's worst day and have the chance to make it a little better. It's hard work and sometimes dirty work, and people can be extremely stressed out. We get to see the reward of our work."

A Positive Impact on Youth

Every summer, George serves as the program manager for Camp Fury, a week-long camp that introduces girls in middle and high school to male-dominated professions like firefighting, EMS, police, the military and other skilled trades.

"We have the girls climb ladders, crawl into confined spaces and put on gear. At first, many of them are nervous, but it's so rewarding to see them become more confident by the end of the camp."

The camp is the result of a partnership between the Chesapeake Fire Department and the Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast.

Ascending to Academia

When she's not fighting fires and assisting with emergency medical support, George finds herself teaching and grading papers. IN 2002, George began teaching English composition and literature at Old Dominion. She has served Saint Leo since 2014.

"English is extremely important in almost any job," she says. "Everyone writes e-mails, reports and many other kinds of documents, so you have to learn how to express yourself accurately and concisely no matter what you're doing."

She teaches both face-to-face classes and those delivered online.

"I enjoy teaching with both methods, but both are very different. The face-to-face classes I have are pretty small, so they're more like workshops. But with online classes, you can still have face-to-face conversations through FaceTime and other video conferencing tools, and I always encourage students to call, text or e-mail me with any questions. Plus, the discussion boards allow for students to interact with their peers. I should also mention that if students need tutoring or other help, they can always come to the center for that, even if they're taking classes online."

George adds that her grading style is essentially identical for classroom-based and online courses.

"I usually use a rubric to help me break a student's paper down into sections. This helps me look at a paper more objectively so I can give it a fair grade. I always provide detailed feedback so students know what they need to focus on in their writing. I also like to do peer reviews and have students read their own writing and other students' writing aloud."

There are many aspects of teaching she enjoys.

"First off, I like meeting new people and then finding out where every student's strengths lie," she says. "Many students don't like taking writing classes, so I try to show them how all of this can be applied to their day-to-day lives and why writing is so important in any field. Hopefully, it will make them better writers in their other classes as well."

She has lots of adult learners in her classes, many of whom haven't attended a college or university in 10 years or longer. Most of these students haven't been exposed to online learning, either.

"Quite a few students are pretty unfamiliar with taking classes online, so this is all new to them. I like to show them how to cite sources, use the library and take advantage of other online resources. By the end of the semester, it's great to see them producing high-quality work."

Photo credit: The photograph(s) included in this blog article were provided by Mandy George and are used with permission.