Renata Kessler may be a new adjunct professor at County College of Morris (CCM), but she is not new to the life of teaching.
Besides being a retired public school teacher, the West Orange resident also is the first graduate of the Teaching in the Two-Year College internship program, operated jointly by CCM and Drew University, to obtain a teaching job at the community college.
Kessler was a public school teacher for 25 years teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) to grades K-12. In the midst of that career, she inherited her father’s journal which was his eyewitness account of the Holocaust. After 12 years of research, she published the Wartime Diary of Edmund Kessler in 2010. One year later, she decided to retire and attend Drew University to pursue her Doctor of Letters (D.Litt.) degree.
Drew University is one of the few institutions in the country to offer a D.Litt. The program is interdisciplinary in nature and focuses on thorough grounding in the humanities.
At Drew, Kessler learned about the Teaching in the Two-Year College program and applied to take part in a teaching internship at CCM. The program was established by CCM and Drew in 2011 to prepare D.Litt. students to teach at the community college level.
At CCM, Kessler was paired with Professor James Hart, chair of the Language and ESL Department, as her mentor. As an intern, she had the opportunity to observe and participate in Hart’s advanced ESL writing class, gaining hands-on experience and valuable information about the structure of a college course.
“Professor Hart is able to connect with students from different backgrounds and demonstrate confidence in their ability to learn English,” says Kessler. “I would say that inspiring self-confidence in students to set the stage for successful learning is the most important thing I learned in his class.”
Upon completing her internship, she applied for a position at CCM and is currently teaching Conversational English.
Kessler’s passion for teaching English originates from her childhood. As the daughter of two Polish immigrants, she taught her parents English and also helped them with their ESL homework.
“My parents were always struggling trying to improve their English so they could communicate more effectively,” says Kessler. “That was how I got started teaching ESL and decided I felt a calling to do this because it was familiar territory.”
While she enjoyed teaching elementary students, her real passion was teaching English to the immigrant parents of her students.
“I had a great time when I taught adult education. I found the older students fascinating because they were from all over the world and we would often build a sense of community by sharing our cultures with each other. I am doing that with my class here at CCM.”
Along with teaching at CCM, she continues to work on her dissertation on Georgia O’ Keeffe to receive her D.Litt. degree. Retirement simply is not part of her plans. For now, she is enjoying her position and the CCM community.
“I favor the democratic mission of community colleges to give everyone the opportunity for equal education,” she says.