Christine McDowell

Assistant Professor of Curriculum and Instruction

“I love the interaction with my students – watching their minds grow and develop and mature as they transition from the role of student into the role of teacher. I actually get restless during winter and summer breaks because I miss teaching so much.”

Christine McDowell says she was “born to teach.”

Even when she was in second grade, McDowell recognized her teacher’s use of innovative techniques in the classroom. These methods inspired McDowell and eventually led her down the path to a successful and rewarding career in education.

“Ms. Lamble was progressive, innovative, and ahead of her time, incorporating reading and writing workshops and learning centers before they were considered best practice,” McDowell said.

As a college professor today, McDowell has a teaching style that could be defined as rigorous, yet laid back.

“I have high expectations for my students, but I welcome their ideas and collaboration,” she said. “I believe in modeling for my students what I expect from them, and that they, in turn, will model for their own students.

“If I am teaching them to use writing journals with their students, then you can count on me to have my own writing journal on the document camera and to be writing in front of my students. They need to see that learning (whether through writing, reading, etc.) can be a messy process and that it is the time we take to reflect upon our practices that helps us learn.”

After completing her bachelor’s degree at Western Michigan University, McDowell taught kindergarten, first, and second grades at a charter school.

“I quickly learned that early childhood was not my calling,” she said.

McDowell then moved to a rural school district where she taught eighth grade English language arts for 10 years. She also taught eighth grade life science for two of those years since she had certification in both areas.

While attending graduate school at Western Michigan, McDowell enrolled in the local affiliate of the National Writing Project where she was required to conduct a professional development session with K-12 ELA teachers.

“At the same time, I was mentoring an intern in my classroom and quickly discovered my passion to work with preservice teachers,” she said. “So, after a great deal of introspection, I quit my job and went back to school to pursue my Ph.D. in English Education, which upon completion, brought me here to Henderson.”

McDowell says she gains great satisfaction watching her students succeed.

“I enjoy observing the students discover their passion for their content and their practice,” she said. “It is difficult to put into words how amazing it feels to watch a student when that spark ignites that turns their chosen field from a job to a career.”

McDowell advises future elementary school teachers to start building their classroom libraries today.

“Garage sales and thrift stores will be your best friends,” she said. “Also, get as much classroom experience as you can. If you have a friend or a family member who teaches, observe them as much as possible.

“Teaching is a collaborative profession and we have much to learn from each other. Also, find a professional organization that supports your teaching. It is an invaluable professional network with many membership benefits.”

If she hadn’t pursued a teaching career, McDowell said she would have probably majored in journalism or communications. “I even dabbled as a DJ at an R&B station when I was in college.”

Since moving to Arkansas, hiking has become a hobby for McDowell.

“Growing up in Michigan, I had access to the Great Lakes, but we didn’t have any mountains,” she said. “I am quickly learning why Arkansas is called the Natural State. I find myself outdoors a lot more since we moved here.”

McDowell said she has learned to be flexible as a teacher.

“There will be days when the Internet server crashes or an unscheduled pep assembly pops up,” she said. “As a teacher, we have to learn to monitor the situation and make adjustments. As Tim Gunn would say on Project Runway, ‘make it work.’”

Elementary Education

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Degree and School:
Ph.D in English Education, Western Michigan University

How students use mentor texts to learn various styles and strategies of writing

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