Katelyn Delvaux combines poetry, pop culture in the classroom

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Poet, literary editor and adjunct instructor of English Katelyn Delvaux has published her work in Barn Owl Review, Driftwood Press, Slice Magazine and other journals. (Photo by August Jennewein)

University of Missouri–St. Louis adjunct English instructor Katelyn Delvaux understood the transformative power of writing from a very early age.

“I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since I was five,” she said. “My school had a career day, and most kids showed up as princesses and Disney characters, but I told my parents I wanted to be a lion. Being practical, they sat me down and told me, ‘Katelyn, you will never grow up to be a lion.’ I told them, ‘Then I’ll become a writer and make myself a lion.’”

Though Delvaux never succeeded in transmogrifying herself into a lion, she has succeeded in her ambition of finding a place in the writing community.

Since studying under the acclaimed poet Albert Goldbarth and earning an MFA at Wichita State University in Kansas, Delvaux has gone on to publish her work in literary venues such as Slice Magazine, edit poetry for Rivet and use inventive teaching strategies to engage her junior composition students at UMSL.

“Teaching offers all the same things that I enjoy about writing,” Delvaux said. “My courses deal with exploring the human condition, empathy and your ability to grow and expand your ethical concerns. It’s wonderful getting students to take on different perspectives and explore.”

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Katelyn Delvaux uses popular memes to address language concerns such as diction level and academic discourse.

Delvaux hones her students’ critical thinking and writing skills with a mix of esoteric references and popular culture. She’s not afraid to fuse the 18th-century French artist Joseph Ducreux with memes and rap lyrics or analyze James Oppenheim’s union song “Bread and Roses” while referencing “Orange is the New Black.” As a result of her enthusiasm and efforts in the classroom, Delvaux has been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute Fellowship.

The fellowship will award her a stipend of up to $3,900 to attend the four-week Moral Psychology and Education program at Grand Valley State University in Michigan, where she will develop a new teaching project in the company and under the guidance of scholars from a wide variety of disciplines.

Associate English Professor and Writing Program Administrator Suellyn Duffey knows Delvaux will make the most of her award.

“Katelyn is a strong teacher,” said Duffey. “The NEH grant only adds to what she can contribute to the department and her students. Her acceptance as a participant is testimony to her intellectual strengths and her energy.”

Assistant Teaching Professor Paula Coalier affirms Duffey’s sentiments.

“The English department is fortunate, indeed, to have an instructor with Katelyn’s level of personal initiative and commitment to professional development,” she said.

During her time at the NEH summer institute, Delvaux will study modern philosophers and moral psychology to better define the role of the humanities in the classroom and reach her students on a deeper level.

“We exist to question and analyze the human condition in ways which enable us to impact culture and society as a whole,” she said. “Understanding and refining language is one way to do this, and I want my students to see how the beauty in words can help divergent perspectives and ideas come together.”

The UMSL Experience

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