Since completing Ph.D. in English Education, Amanda Haertling Thein has made a mark in the field of English education for her research on student response to literature, adolescent literature, and multicultural literature instruction. Today, she is an Associate Professor at the University of Iowa and was recently recognized as an “author of the month” by Routledge Press, a leading education research publisher.
Associate Professor of Language, Literacy, and Culture, University of Iowa
Ph.D., English Education, 2005
I am co-founder and co-director (with my colleague, Dr. Renita Schmidt) of the Strong Girls Read Strong Books afterschool book club. For the past four years we’ve been working with eight to 10 pre-service teachers and graduate students to bring books with strong female protagonists to approximately 45 4-6th grade girls on Friday afternoons. Our motto is “we read, we chat, we dance!” Our goal is to read and talk about issues that matter to girls and to explore an array of response strategies. It’s the hardest and best work I do!
I was lucky enough to meet three terrific women who included me is their “dissertation support group.” We took turns meeting at each other’s homes to share writing and talk about life. I was the youngest and most junior member of the group so it was wonderful to laugh and learn with women!
I wanted to be a physician right up until the day I realized that I was just barely going to pass 10th grade biology. As it turned out, reading Stephen King and talking on the phone had been a lot more interesting than doing my homework for that class. That’s when I decided to explore careers that would allow me to read books and talk a lot!
When I have 30 minutes of free time, I typically spend at least 15 of those minutes thinking that I should go for a run! Then, sometimes I actually go for a run, but usually I just pick out podcasts for the next time I have 30 minutes of free time for a run.
Richard Beach was my advisor and I am forever grateful to him for his mentorship. In addition to helping me become a scholar and a teacher, Rick taught me how to navigate the world of academia and how to make good, principled decisions that keep me focused on making solid contributions to my field. He also taught me how to be an advisor who is a true mentor – I constantly strive to “pay forward” what Rick gave me by including my students in my research, teaching, service, and professional networks
My students. As a high school teacher the energy, curiosity, and fearlessness of my seniors as they went off to college around the country inspired me to quit a stable job that I loved to take a chance at graduate school. Now my doctoral students inspire me every day with the new ways they are thinking about theory, research, and teaching. They keep me (relatively) young and on my toes!
I teach and study young adult literature, so I read a lot of books that in some way explore the experience of youth. One of my current favorites is Caitlin Doughty’s memoir, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory.” I love this book because we so often assume that young people see themselves as immortal and Doughty breaks that mold. Her memoir illustrates the careful, thoughtful way that one young person has come to explore death as a part of life. I laughed, I cried, and I learned a lot!
I have always been driven by the power that literature can have to help people better understand their own worlds and those of others. I’m excited about my work when I listen to pre-service teachers talk about new and innovative ways to engage their future students in conversations about literature and life. I’m excited when I find new pieces of literature that I think might engage and challenge young people. And, I’m most excited about my work when I get the chance to talk about literature with young people.
I am a recovering introvert! I was a kid who loved nothing more than to read books and hang out with my closest few friends. I was never shy, but I was reserved. Becoming a teacher and now a professor has taught me how much energy and insight comes from really getting out there and interacting with many different people in all kinds of contexts. In fact, one of the most surprising joys I’ve found as a professor is attending conferences and “networking” (which, it turns out, is just talking, learning, and laughing) with other scholars.