Instructed: English professor motivates student achievement

“So I thought, this is just perfect for that LAND Scholars competition. So [Natalie] presented [her story] last winter down at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.” Delta English professor Dana Denney shares about her student Natalie Norris’ award-winning story “True Stories of a Farmhouse.” Thurs. Nov. 14. (Patrick Sochacki/Collegiate Life editor)


By Patrick Sochacki, Collegiate Life editor.

UNIVERSITY CENTER – Dana Denney, assistant professor in English, and Natalie Norris, current student at Delta College, have a lot of things in common. They both share a love for English, they both love animals and they both appreciate the little things about each other.

“I knew that she was a very unique gal, you know, right from the get-go,” says Denney in regards to meeting Norris for the first time. “She has a very unique system of operations, she has a very interesting way of explaining herself, she’s very motivated, she has one of those really go-forward personalities.”

Denney has been a professor at Delta for 40 years and has been teaching composition classes throughout her entire tenure.

“I usually work with developmental students, so it’s like English 111A and English 112B […] usually it’s students who have had a rough time with English in their education beforehand,” says Denney. “They weren’t crazy about it, they didn’t do well with it, but not always. Like in Natalie’s case, they just really enjoy it, they want more feedback as far as what they’re doing and that’s what I do.”

Natalie Norris is attending Delta to pursue the major of elementary education. She is also a winner of the LAND writing competition for her play, “The True Stories of a Farmhouse.” LAND stands for Liberal Arts Networking and Development, an organization based in Michigan that helps promote the liberal arts.

Norris describes the play as the stories of her family farmhouse.

“It’s been in our family for over 135 years,” says Norris. “It was built in 1884. [The play] started as an essay, in an assignment where we had to incorporate five of 10 things, and as I was looking through the list of things I kept seeing stories from my family history. So it is ultimately a monologue told by the farm itself.”

Norris’s play has been performed live in front of an audience at Oakton Community College as part of their Play On! Student Playwriting Competition and Festival.

When she isn’t turning essays into award winning plays or studying to teach elementary school, Norris is very involved in 4H.

“4H is an enrichment program that has a lot to do with the agricultural side of things,” says Norris. “[…] It stands for head, heart, hands and health which [means] devoting those to your community […] I’ve been in it since I was nine years old.”

Norris used to raise and ride horses, but now solely raises rabbits.

“I did ride [horses] for two years, and then once I came to college I couldn’t keep up with the horse and I raise rabbits, so the rabbits were put first and the horse was rehomed,” says Norris.

For the rest of their story, listen to the latest episode of Instructed in the embedded player below! You can also tune in on Apple Podcasts and Stitcher.

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