Sept. 2, 2021

Inspiring Teacher: Kelly Sassi, professor of English


Inspiring teacher Kelly Sassi is a professor of English and director of the Red River Valley Writing Project.

When Kelly Sassi teaches, she sees the experience as a two-way street.

“We learn equally from each other. Students are diverse and come to the classroom from many different places that give them a unique lens on the subject matter we are pursuing,” said Sassi, professor of English and director of the Red River Valley Writing Project. “NDSU students are hard-working — I admire their fortitude.”

Sassi clearly loves what she does, and it shows in the enthusiasm she brings to her English education and composition classes.

“Passion is a word that frequently pops up in my student evaluations, and I do feel passion while teaching,” she said. “I want to share my excitement for literature, writing and pedagogy.”

Her research focuses on social justice issues, including such topics as race in the classroom, fair practices in writing assessment, feminist research methodologies and pedagogical approaches to Native American literature.

“Education is critical in building a meaningful life and a just society,” said Sassi, who earned her doctorate in rhetoric and composition at the University of Michigan. “Teaching is dynamic. We have new students interacting with course material each semester and our fields and the larger world are always changing. Figuring out creative ways to adapt to these changes means teaching is an ongoing and fun challenge.”

Sassi enjoys interacting with students outside the classroom, whether that be volunteering during Move-in Day or cross-country skiing with members of the NDSU Nordic Ski Club.

“I also love taking students on field experiences where we are all learning new things,” she said. “My Young Adult Literature class visited a former Indian boarding school at Fort Totten and listened to people discuss the site’s history and how it affects education today. Another time, my English education students ran a climate change writing workshop for teens at the Turtle Mountain Reservation. It was great to see them embrace working in a cross-cultural context.”

As an engaged educator and active lifelong learner, Sassi’s goal is to to cultivate social awareness and curiosity in her students.

“We all contribute to each other’s successes and future,” she said, adding this advice for her students: “Cultivate open-mindedness and open-heartednes; we all live on this planet together. Stay curious; developing inquiry questions is a great way to keep learning.

“Also, don’t be afraid to make mistakes or hear criticism. Personally, I’ve learned so much from both.”

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