This Saint Leo English Instructor Has Always Had a Passion for Teaching
Meet Marissa Glover, a poet and Saint Leo University writing instructor who puts a unique spin on each and every class she teaches.
Since age five, Marissa Glover knew she wanted to teach.
"When I was a young girl, my parents bought me teaching supplies and lesson plan books," Glover shares. "I would 'teach' classes in my bedroom and create assignments for make-believe 'students.' I didn't play pretend with dolls. I pretended I was a teacher."
The Saint Leo University instructor of English and professional writing is a native Floridian. In fact, her family goes a few generations back within the state.
When asked for a fun fact about herself, she says that she once had a guinea pig named Miss Mac & Cheese who loved watching Family Feud.
In terms of higher education, Glover attained a bachelor's in English and philosophy from Mercer University in 1996. She later attended the University of South Florida where she earned a graduate certificate in creative writing in 2011 and a master's in literature in 2012. During the long stretch of time between degrees, she paid the bills by working as a professional writer and editor.
For several years after 2012, Glover taught English, creative writing and some advanced placement (AP) courses at the high school level. It was during this time when she truly knew that she wanted a career in the classroom.
It was 2015 when she first set foot on Saint Leo's University Campus to take a training course required by her job at the time.
"I immediately fell in love with the campus," she says. "There was a special feeling I got walking around the grounds and seeing the trees, rolling hills and water. The buildings and history of the campus really spoke to me."
She knew several faculty members and staff, all of whom had told her so many positive things about Saint Leo. That's why she applied for a teaching position.
"I started out as a visiting professor," she says. "It had always been my dream to teach at the college level, so getting that opportunity meant so much to me. Two things sold me – the small class sizes and the core values. The fact that we focus on students first is the biggest thing for me."
Glover has taught at Saint Leo in some capacity since then, now serving as a full-time instructor. She also serves as an academic advisor and certified peer observer. She has observed several professors at Saint Leo's Tampa Education Center.
She has taught classes that cover academic writing, literature, professional writing and editing, rhetoric and public speaking. She has created several courses currently taught on campus and has taught University Explorations classes like Love and Desire in Literature and Monsters and the Monstrous in Literature.
Glover has several unique approaches she uses to make her classes more engaging for students.
"My motto has always been, 'Learning first. Grades second.' My philosophy is that it is far more important for students to learn in a class than to achieve a particular grade. The pressure or worry about grades can prevent actual learning. Grading is obviously part of education, but if students focus on learning above everything else, everything else will follow."
The future of her students is always at the top of her mind when designing each curriculum.
"I despise busy work," she says. "I want every moment to matter. I also want students to be successful at the next level of school or in their careers, so I try to come up with unique assignments that are also practical."
She adds that no two classes, even those with the same name taught in different semesters, are ever identical.
"I spend a good amount of time getting to know each student in the room. I then tailor each class to meet the needs of those specific students. While the learning outcomes are always the same, the instruction, assignments and assessments can vary based on the personality of each class."
An example of gearing an assignment toward a specific audience happened in an academic writing course she recently taught, a class that consisted mainly of student-athletes.
"I showed them some examples of famous sports commentary, such as when Tiger Woods sank a putt on the 18th hole to win a tournament. I wanted them to identify the descriptive and narrative elements and realize how those moments were communicated. I then asked the students to write their favorite sports moment from their own athletic career. They also had to record themselves reading the work and later compared the pros and cons of the two different mediums."
In her Love and Desire in Literature class, students read Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and had to choose a scene from the story. They were then tasked with converting their selected scene into another format like a painting, sculpture or poem in order to prove their understanding of the plot and other literary elements.
"One of the students did a PowerPoint presentation comparing Tristan Thompson and Khloe Kardashian to the Romeo and Juliet characters," she recalls. "It was hilarious—and proved their understanding of the material in a way that entertained the entire class."
She loves using the acronym "PRICE" in her classes. But it has nothing to do with money or the TV game show The Price is Right.
"'PRICE' reminds students of what's important in our classroom—and that every decision they make has a consequence, or a price they will pay. They are reminded to weigh the cost before making their choice. Each letter of the acronym represents something I greatly value in the classroom and desire for students to value too.
"The P stands for 'productive struggle.' R is for 'respect.' I is for 'individual voice,' C is for 'curiosity' and E is for 'empathy.' If we make decisions in the classroom based on these values, we will create an environment conducive to learning, and students will be able to accomplish our mission, which is to read, think and write at the college level."
Having a front-row seat to the learning process of her students, especially from the beginning to the end of a semester, is what it's all about.
"I personally value curiosity because I value learning," she says. "It doesn't matter which class it is. The fact that there is a palpable desire to learn in the room really energizes me. It's that synergy in the room—between what I'm learning from the students and what they're earning from the material—that's so rewarding."
In the fall of 2016, Glover started a "Friday Night Open Mic," also abbreviated F.N.O.M., at a local venue nearby University Campus.
"Honestly, I was inspired by student need and by the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. to start this event," she explains. "The world seemed dark and ugly, and King reminds us that the best way to dispel darkness is by shining a light. He also teaches that everyone can make a difference because everyone can serve. I wanted to add beauty to the world through this opportunity for artistic performance, where, as we say, 'all it takes is courage to be FNOMenal.'"
The event was open to the public and attended by Saint Leo students as well as members of the community. The youngest performer in the event thus far was 14. The oldest? Eighty-five.
"We would draw about 100 people at each event. We held two in the fall term and two each spring semester."
While F.N.O.M. has been on hold recently, Glover does hope to relaunch it in the near future.
In addition to teaching, Glover has done a wide range of writing through ad copywriting, academic writing, popular articles and poetry. She has had a number of pieces published both in print and on the web.
"As a professional writer myself, I try to write a little bit of everything to keep my skills sharp across the board," she says. "But since I also teach in the professional writing part of the English major, I want to put myself in students' shoes to understand the challenges they may be going through or will go through in the future when it comes to a career as a writer."
She is excited about her debut poetry collection, Let Go of the Hands You Hold, which will be published by Mercer University Press in the spring of 2021.
"I often call myself a performance poet because I write some pieces for the page and others for the stage. I'm hoping this book shows both sides of me."
Topics of the poetry collection include politics, motherhood, love and loss—but the common theme is perhaps how to find one's place in a disappointing world.
"I want each poem to be authentic, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're all autobiographical," she explains. "It has to read true and feel true, and I think these poems do. At least I hope they do."
She already has a second manuscript in the works with a tentative title of Box Office Gospel.
"The poems in this book set popular 'clips' from television and film or ancient biblical texts in a current landscape, hoping that hearing a familiar story in an unfamiliar way will offer insight into our daily existence," she says.
Not surprisingly, the out-of-the-box thinker enjoys playing games in her spare time.
"For better or worse, I tend to play board games like it's a professional sport," she jokes. "For every holiday gathering, I'm asked to create games, explain the rules and buy prizes. A few years ago, a family member tore a ligament playing one of our games. I felt really bad for him but admired his will to win."
Some of her favorite board games include Balderdash, Cranium, Imaginiff and Like Minds.
Learn more about Glover's work at www.marissaglover.com, where you can also see videos of her live performances.
Follow her on Twitter.
Below is a video of Glover performing her poem "In Each of Her Folds, a Promise Waits." It was first published in Solstice Sounds and first performed at Saint Leo University's annual T.A.B.S. concert.