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Ian Sherman – former ’valley’ guy (totally!), writing mentor, OC instructor


“My students often joke that they pick up the use of “Totally” from me. I use it far more frequently than an English instructor should.”

You seem to have had an interesting childhood.
Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Silver City, Nevada, a town of 150 in northern Nevada. About equal portion mining shack and house, it’s mostly populated by hermits and old hippies. When I was just a year old, my parents and I were in a pretty bad car wreck. It was a Gremlin; I’m not sure Gremlins ever had any good car wrecks.

Anyway, there was a pretty big monetary settlement (at least for a hippie family) –$3,000 dollars, mostly due to some minor head injuries I received. It turned out to be enough money to buy three acres of land in Silver City and an old foursquare up on blocks in Dayton, down the ravine from us. This was bigger than the house my parents lived in when I was born: an old converted train car down on Peddler Road. Our neighbors lived in a converted school bus; my friend Buffy and her family would spend their summers in a teepee in American Forks.

Where was your first teaching job and when did you start teaching at Olympic College?

After I graduated from college, I tracked down a job teaching English in a city just outside of Moscow, Russia called Zheleznodorozhny. It took me about two weeks to remember the town’s name. Turns out, it just means “Railroad.”  I worked there for about three months before transferring into central Moscow.

After a little over a year living in Russia, I moved to Istanbul. I lived there for about six months on the Europe side of the city, with a balcony that saw across the Bosphorus (a strait that forms part of the boundary between Europe and Asia). From there, I moved to Seattle for grad school. At the University of Washington I studied creative writing; I graduated in 2003 and have been teaching since then. I started at OC in the fall of 2007.

What classes do you teach at OC?

I teach English 101/102 and the creative writing courses. I also teach two learning communities with Michael Prince: “The Marketplace of Ideas,” English 101 together with Communication Studies 102 and General Studies 105, and “Camera Obscura,” English 102 together with Communication Studies 105 and General Studies 130. Both classes focus on the critical consumption of mass media; Camera Obscura also gives students the chance to look at photography from the perspectives of critical studies and journalism.

Can you tell us a little more about your background? How has your teaching been influenced by where you grew up?

My students often joke that they pick up the use of “Totally” from me. I use it far more frequently than an English instructor should. But I grew up close enough to California’s central valley to have acquired quite a lot of “Valley” in my own speech. In Northern Nevada our accents were remarkably similar to Californians; but we didn’t speak as quickly, because we weren’t that smart.

What do you enjoy about teaching at the college?

Our classes have become feeder programs for The Olympian, Olympic College’s award-winning student newspaper. It’s been really rewarding to see several of my students join the learning communities without much direction or focus and leave the class with a passion for news and reporting. Many of them are now key members of the Olympian staff.

I’ve also really enjoyed the chance to develop OC’s creative writing program. On the horizon for Olympic College: a fully-developed reading series and an arts and literature journal.

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