Tuesday, June 21, 2022
By Jennifer Keefe
Every Valencian has a story, and Kathryn “Kat” Wells, professor, English, is no different. Hers, however, has all the twists and turns of a tale filled with international intrigue and a thirst for exploration.
Kat came to Valencia College in 2017. Like many before her, she began her teaching career somewhere else. Her first chapter of life in the front of the classroom was teaching for two years in South Korea. Then, she jetted off for her first collegiate teaching experience as a part-time instructor at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, followed by spending a year teaching English as a second language at Otsuma Women’s University in Japan.
The next volume in Kat’s story took her to Princess Noura Bin Abdulrahman University in Saudi Arabia for two years. While there, she even earned an outstanding teacher award.
In 2014, this world traveler turned the page and returned to the United States as a part-time instructor at Muksegon Community College in Michigan.
As you might have already assumed, this English professor kind of has an attachment to books.
“I have an avid, shameless, eclectic love of books,” she explains, “They are basically my decorating scheme. If I could build furniture out of books, without potentially causing myself injury when I inevitably want to read a book that is doubling as a support structure, I would.”
The pages of Kat’s story also detail her love of travel. Of course, the pandemic put a damper on her international plans for a couple of years, but that didn’t stop Kat.
“I had opportunities to explore new places in Florida with friends and introduced several colleagues to the lovely west coast of Michigan last June. Their big takeaway: Fresh water means the sand doesn’t stick,” she says.
Then, there’s the verse about becoming ordained.
“I am actually the Reverend Kathryn Wells,” she says.
But don’t expect to see her preaching in a pulpit near you any time soon.
“I became internet ordained to perform my brother’s wedding ceremony.”
When Kat isn’t reading, traveling or performing religious rites, she’s enlightening minds here at the College. She teaches “a little bit of everything” from developmental English to LIT 1000. She’s also made some special connections in her department at the West Campus.
She remembers her move to Florida like a flashback scene.
“I was hired and knew no one. It was such a strange process for an outsider that I joked I wasn’t sure Valencia was a real college,” she says.
But she soon learned Valencia is far from fiction.
“I got down here and was immediately adopted by my colleagues. My first Thanksgiving in Florida I mentioned to Esther Coombes [part-time faculty, English] that I wasn’t going home and (after being horrified by my plans to eat pizza) she immediately insisted I join her family for the day. I’ve been a regular guest ever since,” Kat explains.
Around campus, her colleagues share her sarcastic spice for life. Nicole Spottke, professor, English, shared this anecdote about Kat.
“Aside from her horrible taste in Marshmallow Peeps (she erroneously refers to them as “an abomination against nature”) and growling at anyone who tries to talk to her first thing in the morning or when she’s counting her knitting, Kat has been a great addition to Valencia West’s Communications Division/English Department.”
On a more serious note, Nicole appreciates Kat’s dedication to their Writing Across the Curriculum work and the time they spent driving for hours around Orlando to deliver books to faculty during COVID.
Wesley Johnson, dean, communications, tells a more earnest account of Kat’s contributions to the body of work on campus.
“Professor Kat Wells is well respected by her students and colleagues. Students often note how she brings her literature courses to life and helps students see the vibrancy and significance of literary arts,” he says.
Wesley was also very excited to see Kat recently earn her tenure.
In her time at Valencia, Kat is proud of the work she has done to internationalize her ENC 1102 curriculum.
“By including poetry, fiction, essays and more from a variety of cultural backgrounds, our diverse population of students can see themselves represented in the classroom and as part of the academic canon,” she explains.
Kat has also been a part of the Valencia Reader board, which aims to increase access to open educational resources for students.
When it comes to life at the College, she’s inspired in a lot of ways.
“I love the atmosphere of lifelong learning that is espoused by the College. I am constantly inspired by my colleagues – the practices they are trying in their classrooms, the ways they are involved in the community. The excitement everyone still has to continue trying new ideas and learning new things is one of my favorite parts of the Valencia experience,” she says.
Kat also appreciates the way in which the College serves the community.
“There is a sense that no matter who you are or what your background is, there is a place for you at Valencia. But even more importantly, I think faculty and administration do solid work recognizing the contributions students themselves are making to the community,” she explains.
Kat’s made a few contributions of her own to the literary world. She’s published works of poetry and fiction and has served as both a fact-checker and associate editor for others’ publications. She also founded her own publication company, Paper Tongue Press.
Know of someone who embodies one of Valencia’s values (learning, people, diversity, access or integrity), who has been an employee for at least one year? Send the colleague’s name to us at The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu. He or she might be one of our featured colleagues, subject to supervisor’s approval.