We Are UNCW

Sarah Hallenbeck
June 1, 2020

One of the things Sarah Hallenbeck enjoys about teaching is the opportunity to learn alongside her students.

“If I assign a new reading or project, I’m forcing myself to learn something new, too, and then I get the opportunity to process it all with my students,” explained Hallenbeck, associate professor of English and composition coordinator. “I am often surprised by how my perspective changes even when I’m teaching something I’ve taught in the past.”

Before joining UNCW in fall 2011, Hallenbeck worked at Duke University as a Writing Fellow. She also taught ninth and tenth grade English for five years at East Mecklenburg High School in Charlotte.

“I love teaching on a college campus and surrounding myself with people who are curious about the world – people who are eager to keep growing and changing and tinkering,” said Hallenbeck.

Hallenbeck said she loves the way UNCW nurtures its undergraduate students.

“In the English Department, students have close relationships with faculty because of small class sizes, and many of them change so much during their time here because of the experiences they have,” she added.

Like many UNCW faculty, Hallenbeck had to shift the way she taught her students due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There were a few bumps in the road, Hallenbeck said. Some students assumed her classes were going to stay synchronous through Zoom.
 
“It never occurred to me to do that because my online teaching has traditionally all been asynchronous. So, I've had to go back and add in some optional Zoom time so we can all see each other,” she said. “I had to remember that I'm not teaching online classes – I'm teaching face-to-face classes that can no longer meet in person.”
 
Remote learning has opened up opportunities for collaboration. Hallenbeck’s science writing class partnered with her son's second-grade class at Alderman Elementary. The elementary students watched the series “Mystery Doug,” a five-minute science show structured around questions from elementary school students, who call Doug for answers. Hallenbeck decided to have her son’s classmates pose similar questions to her students, who then created videos or comic books to formulate answers. The videos and comic books were shared with the Alderman  students.
 
“Some of the questions included: How did we discover atoms, if they're so small we can't see them with a microscope? Why are some people more flexible than others? How does a baby bird know when to hatch?” Hallenbeck said. “It’s  yet another way people are making connections even though none of us are able to get together.”
 
Photos of Sarah Hallenback were taken on campus prior to the start of social distancing to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

-- Venita Jenkins
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