Aldrich earns PhD

Amy Brause

Through eight long years of hard work and determination, language arts teacher Deb Aldrich has received her doctorate, entitling her Dr. Aldrich.

Aldrich received her doctorate through the University of Iowa in the College of Education through the program Language, Literacy, and Culture. Her dissertation, “Heteroglossia and Persuasive Discourses for Student Writers and Teachers: Intersections between Out-of-school Writing and the Teaching of English”, is seven chapters long and over 270 pages long. It represents a study she completed over the course of about seven years with some high school writers. Aldrich interviewed these students about their writing when they were seniors at Kennedy, then interviewed them again when they were the age of juniors in college. One, a novelist, continued to write novels, even completing one in her first year of college. Another student, a poet, ended up joining the army, though continued to write poetry.

Through the study, Aldrich said her question became, “what do you do as a teacher, if you know about writers like this…and what do you teach them, and what do they find in writing that maybe a lot of students don’t find in writing?” Aldrich said. “And how can we capitalize on what they know about writing in terms of motivation, or persistence, or hanging with it or deeply digging into something like that.”

Aldrich states that the idea for her dissertation sprung from her interest in becoming a better writing teacher. Though she has taken many courses and seminars to improve her skills as a writing teacher, Aldrich says that it’s something she just always wants to know more. “I don’t think I’m ever going to know enough about teaching writing to have it all figured out, every year I do different things, and so it was a way for me to grow as a teacher too,” Aldrich said. She used what she learned in almost every single course and incorporated them in her lessons at Kennedy.

Aldrich began her dissertation in 2005, and took one course at a time. During this time, she worked full time, battled cancer, and watched her children grow. “I had other interesting things going on in my life as well, so it just took a while, but I just learned so much.”

Even though the workload was tremendous, requiring her to wake up at 4 a.m. in the morning every day for the past two years to work on dissertation. For about an hour and a half, Aldrich would sit at her kitchen table and work on her paper. Aldrich said that loved the work because she loves learning and found the courses fascinating. “We would read this huge books and I just loved it,” Aldrich said. “People thought I was crazy!”
Completing her PhD has been a personal goal for Aldrich since she graduated at Luther College. Now, besides sleeping a little more, Aldrich says that she thinks she’s going to let her next big goal come to her.

“I think I’m going to wait til the next project finds me,” Dr. Aldrich said. “I think that developing curiosity is always a really good idea, and I’ve been curious about writing and learning all these things for a very long time. So finding the next curiosity—I think I’m going to let the next curiosity find me.”

Story by Bailey Zaputil