Michelle Fowler-Amato

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Assistant Professor of English and English Education, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA 


Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction, Language and Literacy Studies, 2015


During my last few years as a teacher and instructional coach in an urban high school, I began to really notice the rich literate lives that my students had. Though many were not motivated by what reading and writing looked and felt like throughout their histories of schooling, they were independently engaging in these practices in meaningful ways. During this time, I decided to attend a Heart of Texas Writing Project workshop, facilitated by Randy Bomer. While participating in this workshop, I had a glimpse of how it might be different for students and for teachers, particularly those working in urban schools.

Why UT?

I decided to apply to UT’s language and literacy studies program because it was clear to me that the faculty would help me pursue the question of how we might better support all young people in their growth as readers, writers, and users of language. I appreciated that this program provided me with the opportunity to think about literacy across students’ K-12 academic experiences and beyond, rather than focusing only on secondary education.

Life After UT

I am currently an assistant professor of English and English Education at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. In taking on this position, I have enjoyed the opportunity to learn from scholars who are working in the fields of rhetoric and composition, creative writing, literature, and linguistics as I continue to think about how to support preservice and practicing teachers in building on students’ literate lives in the English class. Drawing on the experiences I had as a teaching assistant and instructor in UT’s field-based teacher education program, I am currently working on creating new opportunities for ODU’s pre-service and practicing teachers to link theory to practice throughout their programs of study and their future teaching lives.

Advice for Students

I encourage current students to embrace the role of learner, even when it feels uncomfortable to do so. Each and every experience that you will participate in while in the graduate program is one that will support you in your growth as a teacher, researcher, and scholar. While I learned so much during coursework, opportunities to collaborate with faculty and other graduate students in teaching and research, engage in departmental reviews, design my own research study, and eventually seek out new collaborators outside of the department have prepared me for the work I am currently doing. Although it is common to question if you are ready for some of the experiences that you will have the opportunity to pursue, it is important to trust the process and recognize that you are on a journey that continues long after graduate school is finished. We continue to learn and grow through our active participation in these experiences.