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Rick Alley encourages, engages students

English Instructor Rick Alley knows what it’s like to look at a blank screen before beginning to write. A published poet, Alley tells his students that he is a comrade of sorts, one making the writing journey with them.

Alley’s book of poems, “Talking Book of July,” published by Eastern Washington University Press, is now being reprinted by Carnegie Mellon University Press. In addition, this spring his poems will appear in three publications: “The Chattanooga Review, Poetry International and Conduit.”

Rick AlleyWhen he is not writing, Alley is in the classroom teaching English and creative writing. A faculty member for 18 years, he enjoys teaching at the community college because of the diverse student population. “Every semester is new and students have wonderful life experiences that they bring to the classroom,” Alley says. “I enjoy helping returning students who come to class a bit unsure, but soon excel and become the hardest workers and best students.”

One of Alley’s goals for the classroom is to avoid boredom at all costs. “I bring a sense of humor to lessons and a passion for the subject that can be infectious,” he adds. “I know it’s been a good day when I hear students talking about the material as they leave the classroom and continue down the hall.”

A teacher at heart, Alley gets to know his students and often spends time after class with those struggling to write, encouraging them to put pen to paper for that first paragraph. “I tell my students that they are the masters of their own education, but I love being part of the process.”

Alley adds, “I teach a classroom of individuals with different learning levels and styles. The challenge for me is to learn how to best reach them.”

Enhancing the learning experience, Alley encourages students to attend readings and literary events. “I do readings with friend and co-faculty member Bob Kunzinger at The Jewish Mother to raise money for the Foodbank, and we see many of our students at the gatherings.”

Sharing his passion for reading and writing, Alley is active with the Literary Festival committee and Channel Marker, a publication of student writings. “One of my fondest moments was when a student told me she never felt she had a writing voice or anything to say. And I taught her to see things differently,” he adds.

A native of Virginia Beach, Alley earned a bachelor’s from Old Dominion University and a master’s in fine arts from the University of Massachusetts. He is at work on his latest book of poems tentatively titled “August Machine.”