Our September Member of the Month is Connie Schenkelberg, a teacher, writer, and evaluator. As you read through the Connie’s interview responses and look over her professional profile, you’ll see why writers and students are drawn to this dynamic, compassionate evaluator.
Q: Please share a little of your professional history with our readers.
I started teaching English and social studies at a Christian school in Louisiana. Then I taught English in a public high school in Florida, the same one from which I’d graduated a few years before. The next stop was Mississippi, where I taught middle school English, history, and science for three years. In 1990, we moved to northern Virginia, and I taught English and history in a local middle school for most of the time since then. . . . I hope my next stop is South Dakota; my husband and I hope to move there in 2 or 3 years.
Q: How and when did you make this business a reality?
During my years in Mississippi, I started writing technical manuals and found that I really liked that kind of work. When we moved to Virginia, I expanded my technical writing to include workbooks for middle school students. I think that’s the point at which I decided to make this business a reality.
Q: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned thus far in your career?
Don’t assume anything. ALWAYS reread.*
Q: Are you working on any personal writing projects at this time?
I’m researching the life and times of Jim Bridger, one of America’s best western explorers, in preparation to write a juvenile biography. I’d like to bring him to life, to excite kids about this amazing man!
Q: What are some of the teachers, books, or authors who have influenced your professional life in a positive way?
John Bruce, Betty Sue Evans, and Dr. Anna J. Cistrunk were three teachers who influenced my professional life. John Bruce taught me political systems and tolerance for people who weren’t like me at all. Betty Sue Evans brought American history to life and shaped the way I taught my history classes. Then there is Dr. Cistrunk, one of the few professors who ever scared the beejeebers out of me. The two courses I took with her were worth their weight in gold because she taught me how to write.
Books and authors? I’m a science fiction enthusiast and enjoy the early works of Robert Heinlein, just about everything by Anne McCaffrey, and the diversity of Frank Herbert. Of the three, Herbert was the best at bringing completely new material for me to read and enjoy. In fact, I wrote my master’s thesis on Dune.
Q: As a seasoned professional, what advice would you offer a writing evaluator who is just beginning a career?
Value the writer. It’s an easy matter to criticize; it’s far more difficult to critique in a way that leaves the writer’s self-respect intact.
Q: What inspires you?
The prairie. The great expanse of God’s creation in this continent makes my heart swell and inspires me to write the stories of people who passed this way.
*In the next edition of The Edge, our twice-monthly e-zine, Connie shares a brief story about the perils of not re-reading, and the wrong way to provide feedback. If you’re not on the mailing list, sign up in the column to the right so that you won’t miss a single issue.