By Samantha Werkheiser
Many professors in the English Department at East Stroudsburg University are passionate about teaching, but head of the department Dr. Kim McKay truly loves her job.
Originally from Central New Jersey, McKay moved to Stroudsburg, Pa. at the young age of seventeen with her family.
She says that the small, hometown feel was a big change from what she was used to in New Jersey.
“People would talk to you on the streets, it had a much friendlier feel. People didn’t even lock their doors when I first moved here,” she said about the area.
McKay has always had a passion for learning, but did not end up attending college until she was twenty-four years old.
She worked in a greenhouse, managed a jewelry store, waitressed, and book-kept for an architecture firm.
This last job was the reason she ended up going back to school; they offered to pay for a class for her to take.
After that class, McKay’s passion for learning couldn’t be stopped, and she decided to follow her dream of teaching.
“I guess it’s something that I kind of thought I was pretty good at. We often love things we’re not good at I’ve seen it happen to people it’s really frustrating. It’s nice when you find something that you love and that you can actually do. So I found that niche. I always loved school and learning but I didn’t really put those two together until my twenties,” she said when asked what inspired her to teach.
She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in English from ESU in 1984 and went on to further her education at Lehigh University. She earned her masters in 1987 and PhD in 1990.
She became the head of her department several years ago, a job that she took on with ambition and focus.
She thinks that the smaller size of East Stroudsburg University allows for professors to better connect with students, making it easier for the students and faculty alike to learn and grow.
McKay has taught an array of classes over her years at East Stroudsburg University, but being the head of the department has taken up more of her time. She now only teaches linguistics and grammar.
One of the biggest challenges she faces teaching English in this day and age is keeping students interested.
Whereas she has always been fascinated by its complexities, she understands why not everyone would share those feelings, especially young students.
She tries to keep her classes fresh and exciting by engaging every student and making everyone participate in class. One of her many passions besides learning and teaching is Arabic literature, for which she had traveled to Northern Africa on her sabbatical to study.
During her time in Morocco, she taught English and the skill of sewing to young women there; a skill she had used to make her own clothes when she was younger.
Though she has put her research and analysis of Arabic literature on hold for the time being, she had been doing relatively contemporary pieces, a fresh change from the older texts.
She also loves to be outside, having been an avid gardener before suffering a major injury to her back.
One of the reasons she loves the area so much is because she gets a mountainous view and the air is fresh.
Besides taking on many volunteer positions, she has also shown to be kind and caring in her personal life as well.
After suffering from miscarriages, she and her husband made the decision to adopt their son from Russia when he was only an infant.
Following her sabbatical in Morocco, she was looking for a new direction in her life, having already raised her son to adulthood.
She looked into volunteering with children, but thought that this was not enough.
She and her husband decided to adopt an older child in order to make a true and lasting change on someone’s life.
A year ago, McKay and her husband adopted a fifteen-year old girl from Bulgaria.
“It has been, and I knew it would be, a year of challenges. She had never lived in a family and had always lived in an orphanage and in group homes. She is wonderful and we love her, but it is not easy. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” she said.
Though McKay says her daughter does miss her friends, her culture, and people who just speak her language, she has no desire to return to the life she had.
McKay said that her daughter has had some trouble forging friendships, but that her English has been developing very well and she has high hopes for her daughter’s future.
Though it is an ongoing challenge, McKay thinks that it is the most rewarding and impactful thing she has ever done.
McKay’s passion for teaching has helped her become the woman and educator she is today.
She hopes to see ESU continue to flourish, especially the English department.
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