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  • Rachel Bucchino

A Tribute to Steve Straight

Originally Published to the Nor'easter October 2018


Annual Poetry Café and Open Mic Night

October 12, 2018 | 6:15pm-7:30pm

Poolside Café

MODERATED BY JAMES FREEMAN, BUCKS COUNTY COMMUNITY COLLEGE,

AND STEVE STRAIGHT, MANCHESTER COMMUNITY COLLEGE


BY RACHEL BUCCHINO

TYCA Nor’easter Intern & Student of Journalism at the University of Maryland

Stephen Straight, an English professor at Manchester Community College in New Hampshire, will be recognized for his loyalty to the Two Year College English Association, Northeast at its 53rd annual conference this weekend in Long Island City.

Straight has been attending most TYCA conferences since 1994. His first presentation for the conference was just one year later and has been presenting ever since.

“Presenting forces you to examine your teaching, to distill something into a helpful, usable idea for others and to redefine what you then take back to the classroom,” Straight said.

Straight will be the presenting and leading the poetry cafe for the TYCA, Northeast regional conference from Oct. 11 to Oct. 13.

TYCA is an organization that works to enhance and strengthen the intellectual ideas of English teachers at two-year collegiate institutions. The organization exists within the National Council of Teachers of English and is separated into seven different regions.

During his career, Straight published several projects such as “The Almanac,” a book of poems, “The Water Carrier,” a collection of poetry, and “Some Assembly Required,” a chapbook.

 “The Water Carrier” was highlighted on “The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor,” a daily podcast that discusses notable poetry.

The professor has also been teaching for 38 years, spending most of his time at MCC. Straight teaches composition, introduction to literature and creative poetry writing.

Straight also led writing and teaching workshops throughout eastern U.S. and Ireland.

He directed the Connecticut Poetry Circuit, a poetry reading event, and the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, where poets and musicians gather to perform.

“I have loved nearly every minute of my career,” Straight said.

However, more recently, Straight has come up with modernized ideas for the English classroom. He incorporates real life situations and issues for the students to discuss. In one of his composition courses this year, Straight will base his material around lessons called “Teaching Students to Detect Bias, Spin, and Bullshit in the Media.”

Straight stressed that he wants his students’ critical thinking skills to grow by learning about common life decisions.

“We can teach anything in English classes, so why not teach things that really matter to someone’s life?” Straight asked.

The professor first joined TYCA because of the words of encouragement from Susan Huard, the current president of a different MCC in New Hampshire, but his boss at the time.

“That got me to my first TYCA conference, and I immediately loved the group, the collegiality, the dedication, all the stuff I learned,” Straight said.

Straight has been making memories at the conferences ever since.

One of Straight’s most memorable experiences was when he unexpectedly was the keynote speaker. Five years ago, Gary Shteyngart, an American writer, was supposed to give a speech but cancelled last minute because his wife had gone into labor. Later in the day, Straight received a phone call, asking to replace Shteyngart.

In a short period of time, Straight prepared a speech with readings from some of his poetry. Even though this was an unpredicted circumstance, he “had a blast,” Straight said.

Straight shared another memory from TYCA – one that is now a common tradition. Typically on the Friday night of the conference, some teachers gather for poetry readings.

“Low key, warm, informal – the qualities that set TYCA apart from more formal, stiffer conferences,” Straight said, describing the feelings after participating in the poetry session.

TYCA has been a part of Straight’s career for over twenty years, allowing him to learn more about the intellect that English teachers have and how to be a strong presenter.

“I could retire at the end of this year, but because the TYCA conference next year is supposed to be in Portland, Maine, one of my very favorite places, I am partly extending my teaching career to go to one last TYCA conference,” Straight said.

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