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Van Kirk gets it write

Lauren Wells
10/01/2010
A book by Monmouth College communication studies lecturer Susan Van Kirk was recently published, and it’s appropriate that a former student was part of the process.

“The Education of a Teacher: Including Dirty Books and Pointed Looks” is a montage of stories covering 40 years of Van Kirk’s teaching career, much of it at Monmouth High School. The book describes her early fears about classroom discipline, plans to overthrow “the rookie,” handling drug overdoses, the devastating first student death and a challenge to a Kurt Vonnegut book in her classroom.

“The Education of a Teacher” is not the first byline for Van Kirk, who is a Knox College graduate. Shortly after earning her master’s degree in education from the University of Illinois, she began writing on a freelance basis and was hired to write CliffsNotes for books such as “The Scarlet Letter” and “All Quiet on the Western Front.” She said that job came in handy because it helped her determine if her students were using her writing in their book reports.

Copying off Van Kirk was not allowed, but Van Kirk certainly used the material her students provided in writing her new book.

“One of my students gave me guitar lessons, and that was the subject of one of the stories in my book – the night I played electric guitar with the ZBT frat band,” said Van Kirk. “So I do what I can to bridge that 40 -year difference between my students and me. And, frankly, they keep me up to date on what is happening in the 18-21-year-old world. I really enjoy that.”

Another MC connection to the book is one of Van Kirk’s former students, Darren Jackson ’07, who designed the book’s cover and website.

“Darren Jackson was in my freshman Communications 101 class and we simply kept up our friendship over the years,” explained Van Kirk. “He is a phenomenal graphic artist, and every time I ask him to do some project he goes way beyond my expectations. His store of creativity is unending.”

Communication studies lecturer Chris Goble compiled Jackson’s designs into a full-functioning website, which Dan Endthoff ’96 is currently hosting on his server. Endthoff also happens to be Van Kirk’s nephew.

“Collaborations like this are what make Monmouth great,” said Goble. “The fact that alums and faculty can work together on projects show the relationships developed while students are here and that they last beyond graduation. Darren is a talented artist, and I am so happy I got to take his designs and contribute in a small way to Susan’s book.”