Shana Haines, winner of college’s 2016 MLK award, teaches critical thinking along with English

January 21, 2016

Tidewater Community College students who study under Assistant English Professor Shana L. Haines do not just learn about writing. They study law, they apply concepts from math and science, and they develop critical thinking skills necessary to explore many of the social injustices facing us today.

“My job is to help create thinkers,” she said. “It’s not to tell students what to think but how to think.”

Haines’ interdisciplinary approach means students read everything from Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” to the essays of David Foster Wallace to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” King informs much of her teaching, and she believes his influence spreads beyond the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

“Most people think Martin Luther King focused on racial issues only,” she says. “He focused on a wider range of issues. He focused on militarism. He focused on poverty.”

Haines characterizes King’s nonviolent approach as simply one strategy.

“That was the way he fought for Civil Rights at that point in time,” she says. “His strategies continually evolved. Too many people water his radicalism down to make African Americans passive today. If he were here in 2016, would he still use nonviolent resistance? I don’t think we can say.”

Haines is a member of TCC’s Global and Intercultural Learning Committee and was faculty leader for Black History Month in 2015. She recently started a book club on the Portsmouth Campus, prompted by students who suggested the idea after enjoying Earnest Gaines’ “A Gathering of Old Men” for one of her assignments.

A sought-after speaker for panel discussions on issues ranging from police brutality to social injustice, Haines is also an active participant in Williamsburg’s Black Lives Matter movement. Her social activism extends to animal welfare; she and her spouse encourage adoption of shelter dogs through their Facebook page, Hounds of Haines.

Haines taught at Hunter College in New York City prior to coming to TCC in 2012. She earned her bachelor’s in film studies with a minor in English at Texas Christian University, her master’s in British and American literature at Hunter College and her Juris Doctor from Boston University.

She is currently working toward her doctorate in American Studies at the College of William & Mary. Her focus is American legal history in regard to social justice. She resides in Franklin with her spouse, Jamie Haines, a TCC English instructor.

Shana L. Haines in her own words