Doctoral graduate reconciles motherhood, teaching and research by prioritizing life, not work

April 22, 2022

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable Spring 2022 graduates.

Michelle Glerum enjoys teaching: teaching students and teaching future teachers.

“ASU was the perfect fit. I came back for my Ph.D. because I had wonderful experiences working with the English Department faculty in my previous programs,” said Michelle Glerum, Ph.D. the ASU.
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Its goal is to create lessons that encourage students to think critically about global issues and help them compose strong, logical arguments.

Before entering the Doctoral program in English (taught in English) at Arizona State University, the former resident of Princeton Junction, New Jersey, taught at Saguaro High School and Scottsdale Community College.

During her doctoral studies, Glerum served as an associate teacher, where over the years she taught introductory courses like ENG 101/102 Freshman Composition, as well as the upper division requirements for majors in L. secondary education in English: ENG 480 Methods of teaching English Composition, ENG 482 Methods of teaching the language and ENG 471 Literature for young adults. She encourages students to see themselves as writers with ideas worth sharing. Glerum is also a member of the National Writing Project and has taught for the Central Arizona Writing Project.

In 2021, Glerum was awarded the Department of English Higher Teaching Assistant Excellence Award for his excellence in teaching and his contributions to students in the Writing and Teaching English programs.

“In addition to her skills and abilities as a scholar, she is truly an exceptional teacher,” said Glerum’s mentor, an English teacher Jessica Early. “She is one of the strongest instructors we have had in our PhD program.”

Glerum’s research focuses on language and literacy practices in secondary and post-secondary education as well as early teacher transitions. She succeeded defended his thesis“Transitions, strains and retention factors: the value of community and support for early career English educators”, on April 7 and will receive his doctorate on May 9.

We recently had the opportunity to speak to Glerum to learn more about her PhD journey and her plans after graduation.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study in your field? (Maybe while you were at ASU or before.)

To respond: As an undergraduate, I took Jessica Early’s Methods of Teaching Composition course and absolutely loved it. I was majoring in English Literature and minoring in Sociology, and her course inspired me and made me realize how much I love teaching English language arts. I decided to further my education by getting my Masters in Curriculum and Instruction (at ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College) so I could teach English in high school. I spent seven wonderful years teaching English at Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, before returning to pursue my PhD in English Education. It wasn’t until I taught composition teaching methods myself, during my second year in the program, that I realized how much I loved teaching future English teachers. and participate in research on literacy and teacher preparation.

Q: What did you learn at ASU — in class or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: It was harder than expected to navigate motherhood and academia and figure out how to balance the two roles semi-successfully. In the beginning, I tried to do everything at once – take care of a newborn, teach, find time to write – and often felt like I was failing. As a result, I learned to be more intentional with my time and set clear boundaries for myself, which has served me well both as a mother and as a teacher/researcher.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I first came to ASU largely because of the weather. Growing up in New Jersey, I was tired of the cold, endless winters, so I was looking for a change of scenery and a great English program. ASU was the perfect fit. I came back for my PhD because I had wonderful experiences working with the faculty in the English department in my previous programs.

Q: Which teacher taught you the most important lesson at ASU?

A: I have been able to work with so many amazing teachers at ASU and each of them has taught me valuable and important lessons. In particular, I am very grateful to Jessica Early for her endless support and wisdom. It is impossible to put into words everything she has taught me over the past decade. Everything I learned from her felt important to me, but one of the most important lessons was how to teach and coach in a way that students feel seen, heard, and valued.

Q: What is the best advice you would give to those still in school?

A: Prioritize your life, not just your job.

Q: Where was your favorite place for the power study?

A: In all honesty, I don’t have the temperament or attention span for the study of power; I like to take my time and incorporate lots of breaks. I particularly like working in the little hidden garden behind the Piper Writers House. The quiet atmosphere is perfect for writing and thinking.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I plan to enjoy time and travel with my family. Additionally, I will continue my research on early career communities of practice as a method to cultivate sustainable teaching practices and provide critical support for first grade English teachers.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve a problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I recently read “What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing” by Oprah Winfrey and Bruce Perry and learned a lot about the importance of early childhood experiences in shaping our brains and behaviors. I think everyone should read this book. I can’t recommend it enough. If I had $40 million, I would use it to fund early childhood initiatives as well as research and programs to support mindful, trauma-informed, and healing-centered parenting and teaching. I think it would have an incredible effect on our society by disrupting damaging generational dynamics and cycles and, on the contrary, providing a better way forward.

Written by Sheila Luna