Snee Honored for Work in English Courses at the College
When Denise Snee of La Plata steps into one of her 1010T English classes at the College of Southern Maryland (CSM), she looks out on her students waiting to learn about grammar, writing structure and literature, and she said she is struck by the variety of their backgrounds. Snee, the winner of this year’s CSM Annual Faculty Excellence Award Honoring Adjunct Faculty, teaches classes that include dual-enrolled high school students, veterans and middle-aged career changers as well as traditional-age college students at the college’s La Plata Campus.
“The diversity in the classroom is a plus, but it is also a challenge,” Snee said. “To try to reach them all. That is the challenge.”
Her peers at CSM say Snee absolutely achieves this goal.
“Denise is a thoughtful, caring and hardworking faculty member. Her willingness to go the extra mile for students as a member of the innovative English 1010T team is proof of her dedication to student success. She can often be found in the adjunct tutoring room, working one-on-one with students after class, helping them to improve their writing,” said Professor David Robinson, interim chair of CSM’s Division of Languages and Literature. “In my view, she is a true educator.”
CSM Professor Erich Hintze, a coordinator for the English 1010T course, described Snee as “a star … an up-and-beyond moonshot talent” in a reference provided for the excellence award selection.
“For the last several years to now, she posts some of the department’s highest gains in incomes/outcomes measurements, posts the highest retention rates of anyone who teaches ENG 1010T and posts, time and time again, the very best success and completion rates of any adjunct in LAN … over the last 10 years.
“Quite simply, Ms. Snee is incredibly gifted and dedicated to the students. She knows them by name after the first class,” Hintze said. “She walks among them, sits down with them, engages in their lives, and pulls them aside, all to interject herself as an active teacher to lift the students. Her classes are engaged, alert, ready and fun. It is great to watch.”
Snee earned her bachelor’s degree in English, cum laude, at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, and her master’s in English at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston, Rhode Island. Since then, she has taught English in the United States, Japan and Guam as the military family moved to new assignments. She taught online courses to veterans and active duty military members worldwide with the American Military University. She has been teaching at CSM since 2012.
Snee pulls on this close to 40 years of experience as an educator as she works to nudge each of her CSM students toward success, wherever their starting point. “You develop different tricks,” she said. “You become a really good tap dancer.”
She has found that the Writers’ Workshop approach to teaching works well in the diverse CSM classroom. This method, which was developed and produced by the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project program at Columbia University, encourages frequent teacher and peer review of work and more interaction during the learning process. This approach allows time for Snee to work one-on-one with her students. “It lets me answer their questions pretty much when they come up,” Snee said. She believes that by giving more immediate feedback and assistance, she cuts down the frustration level of students trying to master new skills.
“I believe in it, and I believe it will take them as far as they want to go,” she said. “It’s up to them.”
CSM recognized Snee for being the recipient of this year’s Annual Faculty Excellence Award Honoring Adjunct Faculty at the college’s 18th Winter Commencement held Jan. 19 at the La Plata Campus. Snee said that winning was “humbling.”
When Snee first learned of the honor, she went home to tell her husband. After hearing the news, he asked her why she didn’t look happier.
“I’m not sure I deserve it,” Snee said she told him. She noted that teaching includes periods when you don’t see improvement and when you don’t see evidence of learning, and those times can make teachers doubt themselves. It is the moments when Snee sees that improvement or new understanding that make teaching a pleasure for her, she said.
“It’s made me re-examine my teaching,” she said of the award. “Maybe that’s what it’s designed to do. Encourage you to work up to it.”
Despite some conflicted feelings, Snee said that it meant a lot to her to be honored for her work in the classroom. “I’ve been doing this a really long time. It’s nice to get some recognition.”
Snee’s husband is retired military, having served in the U.S. Navy, and the couple has two children, both currently attending universities. Outside of her work at CSM, Snee is an avid walker, partly, she said, because she owns two Labrador retrievers who require the exercise. She also runs several days a week as she trains for the Across the Bay Run 10K over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, which takes place in early November.
For information on CSM’s Division of Languages and Literature, visit http://www.csmd.edu/programs-courses/credit/academic-divisions/lan/. For information on CSM’s Faculty Excellence Awards and previous awardees, visit http://www.csmd.edu/about/faculty-excellence-awards/.