Heather Mitchell-Buck

What brought you to Hood College?

When I first visited Hood, I was immediately struck by how warm and welcoming a community it was. Everyone I met — students, faculty, administrators and staff — emphasized that there was something special, something different, about Hood. Now that I’ve been here for a few years, I have found that people at Hood are genuinely friendly and caring. That’s an amazing foundation for any college to build on, and I feel lucky to be a part of it.

What do you value most about your relationship with students?

There’s a lot of implicit trust in the student-teacher relationship. Together, we puzzle through challenging ideas: ones that we may not fully understand, ones that we are still discovering. These moments of uncertainty can be scary, but they are also the times when we grow and learn. I prize the courage and honesty that it takes for my students to allow me to share those moments with them.

Why is teaching your dream job?

Every day I come to work and talk about some really fantastic books with some truly great people. What could be better than that?

If you were to consider another career, what would you consider and why?

Elvis impersonator? Officer on the Starship Enterprise? I’m actually not sure! I worked in business for several years before graduate school, and did some work as a stage manager before that, so I guess you could say I considered those options first and then found out where I really belong.

Describe your approach to teaching?

I believe that learning is an active process of reading, thinking and writing, best pursued within a community of scholars with whom we can share both our frustrations and triumphs. Common goals do not preclude individual responsibility; rather they require us to take account of the needs of our peers as well as ourselves. So I try to do a lot of collaborative work, and I expect to hear my students’ voices regularly. But I also believe that the teacher is there for a reason; as a student, I was disappointed by teachers who felt that “student-centered” learning meant that the students were the ones doing all of the work! It’s a tough balance, and I’m still working to achieve it, but it’s one well-worth striving for.

What is/are your most memorable moment/s at Hood?

I’ll always be fond of the first class I taught using the iPad: Vampires in Folklore, Fiction, and Film (Spring 2012). The technology was new and exciting and it helped us to be more actively engaged in our readings and projects. That class marked the beginning of my mission to explore the many ways that technology can redefine education and empower students to find their own answers to challenging questions.

Describe your academic interests and research?

My research focuses on English theatre up to and including the time of Shakespeare, but my interests lie more in the provinces rather than on the professional London stage. My current work considers the city of Chester, in the northwest of England, and its famous cycle of Biblical drama. Chester continued to offer performances of these plays well after the Reformation arrived in England, and they serve as an emblem of the city’s efforts to maintain its traditional religious and cultural identity despite the centralizing agenda of the Tudors in the 16th century. The plays were revived in the 1950s and are still performed today. I’m fascinated by the ways that the city’s identity continues to be reflected in its mystery plays even in the 21st century.

When you aren’t working, what are you doing in your spare time?

I spend a lot of my “off-duty” hours playing taiko, traditional Japanese drums. (In fact, that’s how I met my husband, Terry!) I also enjoy “studying” fans and their reading practices — I’m intrigued by fan fiction and fan art and the way that communities with common interests are able to connect with each other online. I also enjoy cooking, running, music and movies, and I try to spend as much time as possible with my family and friends, who are scattered around the country (if not the globe!).

Name three books that you would recommend everyone read:

A question like this is torture for an English professor — I really had to think about it.

First choice: “Measure for Measure” by Shakespeare. There’s no better insight into the temptations and dangers of power. I’d also unhesitatingly recommend “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by JK Rowling to those who are still unfamiliar with it, because Harry’s journey is charming, touching and inspiring without being overly sentimental. Finally, I’d say “The Daughter of Time” by Josephine Tey; not only is it a terrific mystery novel, but it also offers a clever reminder of how blurry the distinctions often are between history and fiction.