Kathryn H. Butler
General Education Instructor
The Art Institute of Pittsburgh — Online Division
You're not thinking unless you're writing. Kathryn H. Butler , General Education Instructor , The Art Institute of Pittsburgh — Online Division
Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?
Writing has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I also have a passion for art; I’ve been painting with oils and drawing with charcoal for 20 years. Both my parents were professors, so I was raised in a university environment. When I was offered a full teaching scholarship in grad school, I almost turned it down—teaching terrified me. But on the very first day, I knew I’d found my calling. I made it my mission to use my passion for visual and verbal expression to find unique and creative ways to share writing and literary concepts with students.
How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?
After teaching writing and literature for over 15 years, I understand the challenges students face approaching English from outside the discipline. I use my own personal experience, as well as anecdotal evidence, to bring writing and literature into the real world. I try to make clear connections between writing and each student's career goals.
What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring—and how do you inspire students to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits?
My approach is both visual and creative. Writing is an art form, and I demonstrate that painting pictures with words can have a deep and lasting impact on the reader. Many students come in with a fear of writing. But helping them explore their own ideas, while offering advice, presenting possibilities, and encouraging experimentation, pushes them out of their comfort zones and inspires them to actually enjoy writing.
How does collaboration contribute to students’ success?
Getting perspectives from those outside your immediate circle can have a dramatic impact. Having others review your work can reveal areas that need improvement, empowering further growth. In terms of literature, viewing texts through multiple lenses of experience and understanding can open up entirely new worlds of understanding.
What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?
As I ask students, “So what?” Ask yourself why what you’re writing matters—what’s the impact? Get past simply stating your opinion—explore why that opinion matters. As my college mentor used tell me, “You’re not thinking unless you’re writing.” Practice it, relish in it, and enjoy it.