Amongst writing students looking ahead to the future, becoming a professor always seems to be a popular idea. Professors stand as embodiments of the diverse array of fields students study under, so choosing to follow their mentors into academia is only natural.
For Dr. Kara Taczak, a writing professor at the University of Denver, the path to becoming a college educator was a culmination of years of knowing her purpose was to impart knowledge.
Discussing her journey to becoming a professor, Taczak spoke of a desire to teach what she had skill in from a young age.
“Honestly, I never was the type of person who at 5 said things like “I’m going to be a doctor! Or I’m going to be an astronaut!” So when at 15 I was asked to write a “what do you want to be when you grow up” I picked things that seemed like I would really, really like them and/or that I would be good at,” Taczak said.
After thinking through what would suit her, Taczak thought being a professor was the best choice. The idea struck a chord and stayed with her throughout her life. She knew that teaching was her passion, so now the only question was what it was that she would teach.
“I have always wanted to be a professor, since I was about 15,” Taczak said. “English and writing come more naturally to me, so it seemed like a good choice as I made my way through college to major in them.”
Taczak earned her Bachelor’s Degree in English from Mount Union University in Alliance, Ohio. Knowing there was more work to do in order to become a quality professor, Taczak made a unique choice in what to study at her graduate school of Walsh University.
“I made a conscious decision to get a Masters of Arts in Education because I also knew I wanted to be a good educator – I had had several professors who were excellent at their trade, but they were not good teachers, and I didn’t want that to be me,” Taczak stated.
After finishing up her Master’s degree, Taczak earned her PhD in Rhetoric and Composition at Florida State University. Before long, her dream had finally become a reality as she accepted at teaching position at the University of Denver, where she has now taught for five years.
Finally achieving that goal of teaching has provided Taczak with some guidelines what kind of professor she strives to be in her day to day work.
“[I] provide my students with a knowledge and practice that they can actually use again in future contexts whether that’s a writing context or an everyday type of context,” Taczak described. “I want to push my students to learn more about the practice of writing and to help them understand themselves more as writers.”
To Taczak, this means she pushes students to accept that they learn the most when encouraged to explore uncharted territory as writers.
“They need to push themselves outside of their comfort zones – step outside the warm, cozy box – and see what else they are capable of and I attempt to provide them with opportunities to push their comfortable box,” Taczak said.
Just as she teaches her students to expect the unexpected, Taczak has come to terms with the fact that her career field isn’t entirely as she expected either.
“I never knew that I would be a researcher as much as I am teacher – I am as much a researcher as I am a teacher,” Taczak said. While unexpected, Taczak notes that this research aspect “responds directly to teaching, so in essence [the] research informs [the] teaching and vice versa.”
The research aspect of the field has thrown the writing professor career into a bit of flux, fostering in a new area of growth and exploration. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment English language teachers in postsecondary education is expected to grow by 10 percent by 2024, higher than the national average of seven percent.
Speaking about outlook for students looking to get into writing academia, Taczak states the key is to work hard and study in emerging fields of writing studies.
“It’s a long often very difficult journey to get there, but it’s not un-obtainable, and I definitely encourage any one who wants to explore writing more generally or specifically to look into rhetoric and composition.”
Rhetoric and composition, the focus of Taczak’s work, stands as an example of the new possibilities one can face as they look to be a professor in writing.
“The field of rhetoric and composition is a relatively new one compared to other disciplines because of that there’s a lot of un-sureness about who we are and what we represent as a field,” Taczak said. Despite this uncertainty, Taczak believes there is a beauty in teaching these new subjects that will make students grow as writers and affirm her goals as a professor.
“To put it simply, rhetoric and composition is a field that explores writing in complex, robust ways both in terms of teaching students to become better, more effective writers and composers and to research the complexities that surround various rhetorical artifacts, situations, and experiences.”