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Bethel Professor Combines her Passions for Community and Poetry

Professor of English Angela Shannon leads poetry workshops for middle-schoolers at St. Peter Claver Catholic School.

By Aiyanna Klaphake ’20

February 21, 2019 | 11:30 a.m.

Bethel’s Angela Shannon, professor of English, leads poetry workshops for middle-schoolers at St. Peter Claver Catholic School.

Bethel’s Angela Shannon, professor of English, leads poetry workshops for middle-schoolers at St. Peter Claver Catholic School.

Located in the heart of the Rondo neighborhood of St. Paul, the St. Peter Claver Catholic School has served families and students alike for almost 70 years, emphasizing not only education, but also faith, tradition, and social responsibility to their community.

It is here that Bethel’s Angela Shannon, professor of English, can be found teaching poetry to an English class of 13 seventh-graders. While she has led workshops at a number of different schools in the past, Shannon has volunteered specifically at St. Peter Claver for the last two semesters. “It’s fun for me to work with young students again,” she says.

“I love the connection with the students. For me it is rewarding in a whole different way. I’m sharing something I love with students with the hopes they’ll love it too. It’s a challenge as well, but you get something out of everything.”

— Angela Shannon, professor of English

Shannon was introduced to the teaching opportunity at St. Peter Claver by Tanden Brekke, Bethel’s assistant director of community engagement and service learning. “I love being connected to the community there,” she says. “And it’s a wonderful opportunity for the students.”

Each semester, Shannon leads a series of five workshop sessions, focused on teaching the students to read and write poetry. The course culminates in an event where the students present their own work. Shannon begins her sessions by motivating students to look at little things for inspiration, encouraging them to see their daily life as a source for their poetry. “I help them look at everyday experiences and learn how to use poetry to write about it,” she says. One example is the ‘contract’ she has them develop titled, “A Promise to Myself,” in which students describe their personal goals for the class.

Although she currently leads the workshops alone, Shannon hopes to include Bethel students in the future to help with the publishing aspect of the writing process. “St. Peter Claver needs volunteers,” she says, encouraging others to learn how they can get involved, “and you get a lot back. It’s an investment in a priceless community.”

Shannon believes that what she receives from the experience is just as valuable to her as what she gives. “I love the connection with the students. For me it is rewarding in a whole different way. I’m sharing something I love with students with the hopes they’ll love it too. It’s a challenge as well, but you get something out of everything.”

Shannon’s current class will share their poetry at a final reading in the coming months. “We have a celebration of their writing,” Shannon says.

English student and professor talking in the student commons.

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