Friday, October 18, 2013

Alumni Spotlight: Seth Snow

Seth Snow graduated as an Integrated Language Arts major in 2007. He applied for a job as a seventh-grade teacher and was hired to teach a “great books curriculum.” He proceeded to teach his seventh-graders Ray Bradbury’s story “The Veldt.” Some of the administrators felt this was too difficult for these students, but when one of them, while visiting Seth’s class, asked a student who had been pointed out to Seth as hopeless case gave a very intelligent account of the story, he found that this criticism would not stand up. As the class went forward, a number of parents began reporting to him that they had never seen their children interested in reading, but they were now reading without being made to do so.

In the process of discussing “The Veldt,” Seth had occasion to refer to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and presented a passage from that play for the class to talk about. They did so and got so excited that they asked for another passage to discuss. Having done this, they asked whether they could read the whole play. Seth said that that probably would not be possible during class time. Then they asked whether they could meet after school to talk about it. Seth said that would depend on the interest. He passed around a sheet, and seventy-five students signed up to meet after school to talk about Shakespeare. However, his career there was cut short when he was let go.

In 2008, Seth was hired by Danville High School in Danville, OH, a small town of about 1,000 people. He brought the same commitment to teaching at a high level that he had shown in his previous job, but here this approach met with more favor. He has regularly taught texts like The Odyssey, Crime and Punishment, Julius Caesar, Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and Antigone along with poems of Keats, Frost, Dickinson, and Tennyson. He teaches all of these texts at a high level, taking, for example, three months to do The Odyssey. This approach has paid off for him as witnessed by the fact that, when I visited him once for a discussion of The Odyssey, I found that his students knew this text far better than mine did.

Seth has sent students to Brigham Young University, Dennison University, and Kenyon College. The BYU student was returned a paper in her freshman English class with this comment on it. “Wow. In 30 minutes, you put together a well-written and insightful analysis paper. No sweat. You got this. Major in English. It’s a good idea.”

He has also sent a student to Kenyon College where he is now a senior majoring in philosophy. This student wrote the following to Seth during his freshman year: "The critical examination skills that I learned in your class are invaluable. I know now not only how to look at a problem but how to look around and through it. This is all while taking into account the bits of information that I know and realizing that there is some guesswork involved. Using that process while implementing basic logic for the guesswork, I have been able to grasp different subjects and topics quickly, followed by developing my understanding of them even faster if I have basic instruction."

These comments show why Seth is so highly regarded by both students and parents. One parent, for example, asked whether he would still be there in five years to teach her younger daughter. If not, she was thinking she might have to make other arrangements for her education.

All these things show the incredible impact one of Ashland University’s graduates has had on the school and on the community where he is working.