Tuesday, March 2, 2021
By Claudia Zequeira
She may have published many poems and a few novels, but Shari Koopmann, professor, English, considers herself an instructor and mentor first.
“First and foremost, I’m a teacher,” said Shari, who has been with the College for two decades. “I also, though, wear several other hats at the College.”
Shari, who currently teaches Freshman Composition and Introduction to Fiction courses on the East Campus, is also deeply involved in facilitating workshops on a variety of social justice topics for the Peace and Justice Institute (PJI), including the PJI Teacher Academy and the Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity (SEED) program, both of which seek to build more inclusive classrooms.
“I’m most inspired by the work of the Peace and Justice Institute both at the College and in the community,” she said.
“The PJI facilitates difficult but necessary conversations on such subjects as racial unrest. Using the Principles for How We Treat Each Other, they create safe spaces for these conversations, they welcome unpopular viewpoints, and they promote change through the sharing of personal experiences — the stories of the self — and the relevant literature and research — the stories of the shelf. I feel very fortunate to be a part of the PJI.”
While at Valencia, Shari is proud to have been the recipient of the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) Excellence Award, which she earned in 2010 for developing the first student-run literary magazine — The Alchemist — at the Osceola Campus.
“My Advanced Composition students served on the editorial board and made all of the decisions; they selected works to be included, decided on the layout and even handled the budget,” said Shari.
“Our own Valencia graphics students worked with the editors to design the magazine and were paid out of our budget. The students learned a great deal about writing, editing and publishing, not by listening to me talk about it or by reading it in a textbook but by doing it themselves.”
She also mentioned being particularly proud of her years spent working with the Teaching/Learning Academy (TLA) under the leadership of colleague Celine Kavalec, professor, English.
“The TLA was the most collaborative team that I’ve ever been a part of. We met weekly to develop and refine curricula and strengthen the program,” said Shari. “At these meetings, there were no egos in the room. We all worked toward one goal: helping tenure-track candidates become more reflective practitioners and better educators.”
Shari has also served on the East Campus Faculty Senate and currently serves as an officer for the Learning Council.
Outside of the College, Shari, who holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, a master’s in English literature from the University of New Hampshire and a doctorate in education from the University of Central Florida, is a published author.
Her work of literary criticism has appeared in scholarly journals and magazines, and her poetry has found its way to several anthologies and magazines. Shari has also earned awards for her poetry and has published three novels.
Her supervisor, Linda Neal, dean communications, said Shari is gifted as both a teacher and author.
“Shari shares her expertise of writing instruction and curriculum with grace and humility,” Linda shared. “In fact, I believe I can safely say that Shari Koopmann is one of the most respected instructors not only among her East Campus colleagues, but collegewide.”
At Valencia, where she has served on numerous committees over the years, Shari has found multiple opportunities for service and opportunities for growth. Her first position at the College was as a senior instructional assistant in Winter Park’s communications lab. She later became an adjunct, earning tenure in 2006.
Her work here has also been recognized via the Faculty Association Awards for Excellence in Counseling, Teaching and Librarianship and the Academic Affairs Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.
But it’s the people who make it ultimately all worthwhile for her.
“I’ve met and worked with some wonderful people who have become family to me. In fact, I met my wife at Valencia,” Shari explained. “We married last March. Not only was the wedding full of Valencians, but one of our good friends in the English Department, Susan Dauer, was our wedding officiant.”
She has also embraced the Valencia philosophy; one which strongly believes in access for all.
“I think that Valencia is revered in our community as an institution whose doors are open to everyone, regardless of such things as educational experience, test scores, race, ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status, sexuality and gender identity. I believe that we’re viewed as an academic institution that nurtures and supports students without compromising rigor.”
When she’s not teaching, writing or otherwise collaborating with colleagues, Shari enjoys learning about nutrition and cooking. She even recently completed the Plant-based Nutrition Certificate program at eCornell.
“I have become, dare I say it, obsessed with creating tasty whole foods plant based meals,” she said. “My most recent success was an oil-free, sugar-free chocolate cake sweetened with banana, apple sauce and dates.”
She also loves listening to true crime podcasts like “My Favorite Murder” and reading comic books.
This year, which brought so many of us indoors, has also provided her with an opportunity to explore new talents.
“My pandemic pastime is learning new skills; after a year, I can knit a pretty mean winter hat and play some Van Morrison songs on the guitar,” she said.
Know of someone doing great work at the College, who has been an employee for one year or more? 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.