Local Teacher Juan Gallegos Accepted into English Doctoral Program at University of Arizona
New Mexico Highlands University English graduate student and experienced local teacher Juan Gallegos was accepted into the doctoral program in English at University of Arizona.
“My goal is to return to Highlands as an English professor and apply what I’ve learned at the University of Arizona,” said Gallegos, a 34-year-old Las Vegas, N.M. native. “I like the educational environment here and the goals of the university.”
The University of Arizona awarded Gallegos a graduate teaching assistantship.
Gallegos will graduate from Highlands with his second master’s degree, an M.A. in English with a concentration in language, rhetoric and composition.
His first teaching position was at Landmark Middle School in Moreno Valley, Calif. Gallegos has also taught English at West Las Vegas High School and Pecos Middle School.
While at Highlands, Gallegos has taught all levels of freshman English composition as a graduate assistant and has tutored at the university’s Writing Center.
“Juan is an exceptional writing instructor and we asked him to pilot our new English 100 curriculum spring semester 2009,” said Highlands University English professor Holly Middleton, who has directed the university Composition Program since 2007. “He really knows how to connect with students, and establishes a calm, respectful classroom dynamic that encourages students to take on more responsibility for their thinking, writing and learning.”
Middleton said the University of Arizona has a very competitive, nationally known Ph.D. program in rhetoric, composition and the teaching of English.
“I think something that attracted U of A to Juan is not just that he’s extremely smart and academically capable, he’s also intellectually open and flexible, which is so important for Ph.D. programs,” Middleton said.
She said the University of Arizona also likely took note that Gallegos was the only graduate student on the university’s committee that created reading outcomes for its new English 100 curriculum. The other committee members were mostly tenured English faculty.
“I’ve enjoyed teaching college freshmen the most because I have the opportunity to provide more feedback to help students improve their writing,” Gallegos said. “At the college level, I can focus more on being a teacher rather than a disciplinarian. I’m a supportive and flexible teacher but ultimately it falls on their shoulders to learn.
“At Highlands we teach our students how to recognize different informal and formal language registers, and the right way to write for the formal academic register that’s required for college. This helps them succeed in all their college writing, and is an important life skill for work and other situations,” Gallegos said.
Gallegos isn’t the only English teacher in his family. His wife, Cathy, also grew up in Las Vegas and teaches English at West Las Vegas Middle School. She is working on her master’s degree in educational administration in the Highlands University School of Education.
Gallegos said for his doctorate he wants to study basic writing for students who are traditionally underrepresented in universities, and apply this new knowledge to teaching English composition as a college professor.
“It all comes back to teaching for me,” Gallegos said.