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Laney College

English Department Faculty

English Department Faculty

Instructors, listed alphabetically:

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Laurel Benjamin teaches Introduction to American Literature (30 & 230), Introduction to Literature / Poetry (43 & 243), Creative Writing (10 & 210), Composition and Literature (1B), Composition and Writing (1A), (201A/B). She earned her BA in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing and an Master of Fine Arts in English and Creative Writing from Mills College. She has worked in the Puente Program, a California-wide project which serves educationally underserved and under-represented students, and has also mentored students in the program. Her poetry, fiction, personal essays, and journalist pieces have been published in journals and anthologies, in online formats, and in her blog. She is a member of a writing workshop and the San Francisco Bay Area Women’s Writing Salon.

office: Tower 512

email:lbenjamin@peralta.edu

websites: L Benjamin Classes

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Elizabeth Cowan received her BA in philosophy and writing from the University of Pittsburgh and her MFA. in writing from the University of Iowa, where she taught for four years. She has since taught college writing courses at a variety of institutions: public and private, four years and two, rural and urban. In 2008, she joined the Laney College English faculty, teaching Foundations in Reading and Writing (269A/B) and Composition and Reading (1A) before joining the Gateway to College program, for which she taught 2009-2012. She currently teaches Preparation for Composition & Reading (201A/B ) and 1A for the APASS program. In addition to her work with Peralta, she also teaches at Saint Mary’s College of California, including a course on Writing for the Liberal Arts for the San Francisco LEAP program. She has worked in curriculum development, writing center administration, and teacher training, but finds the most rewarding aspects of her work take place in the classroom, in dialogue with students.

office: Tower 514

email: ecowan@peralta.edu

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Eleni Gastis (department co-chair) is  a Laney College alumna (’03) and went on to receive her BA in Journalism and International Relations from San Francisco State University. After a few years as a reporter for Bay Area News Group and the San Francisco Examiner—where she covered local communities and crime—Economides returned to SFSU for her Master’s in English Composition and a Certificate in Post-secondary Reading. She teaches  all levels of English and Journalism and enjoys spending time in Greece with her family.

office: Tower 551

email:  eegastis@peralta.edu

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 Wilma Fuller teaches Composition and Reading (201A/B), Critical Thinking (5), and Foundations in Reading and Writing (269 A/B). She earned her BA in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing and Master of Fine Arts in English and Creative Writing from Mills College in Oakland, CA. Just for fun, she has participated in National Novel Writing Month in November for the past seven years and belongs to a writing group that meets in Alameda, CA.

office: Tower 512

email:  wfuller@peralta.edu

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Mary Grover earned a PhD in English from the University of Texas, then served as Wheelock College’s Writing Program Coordinator for six years before coming West to teach at Laney College and the University of California at Berkeley.  At Laney, she teaches Critical Thinking (5), Fundamentals of Reading and Writing (269 A/B), and Composition and Literature (1A and 1B). Her poetry and essays appear in Salon, Calyx, the online journal Memorious, and poemmemoirstory.

office: Tower 514

email: mgrover@peralta.edu

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Brenda Harker teaches Composition and Literature (English 1A and1B), Critical Thinking (English 5), and Shakespeare (English 17 AB and 217A/B). She has earned a BA from San Francisco State University in Theatre Arts (1977), an MA from California State University, Hayward in Literature (1981), an MPH Masters of Philosophy  from Teachers College Columbia University in English Education (2000), and an MA from University of California, Berkeley in Rhetoric (2004). Additionally, Harker has taught English or English as a foreign language on four continents in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. She holds an ESL teaching certificate from the University of California, Extension, a Secondary education credential from the San Francisco State University, and a Moodle on-line teaching certificate from Merritt College. She is one of the founders of the ESL Department at Laney College.  She has supervised student teaching at Teachers College Columbia University. Her textbook Writing Arguments: a Rhetoric and Reader is in its second edition. She can be found at her leisure reading, writing and/or traveling.

office: Tower 504

bharker@peralta.edu

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Daniel Horan earned his BA in Fine and Applied Art from the University of Oregon, and his MFA in Fiction from Saint Mary’s College of California, where he teaches part-time. At Laney, he currently teaches Preparation for Composition and Reading (English 201A/B), and English Grammar (206A). He lives in San Francisco in a rare, shockingly affordable apartment with his fiancee.

office: Tower 514

email: dhoran@peralta.edu

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judy juanitaJudy Juanita is a novelist, poet and playwright. Her first novel,Virgin Soul, was published by Viking Press in 2013; its protagonist joins the Black Panther Party in the sixties in the San Francisco Bay Area. Ms. Juanita’s poetry has been widely published and her plays produced in the Bay Area, LA, and NYC She earned an MFA in creative writing and BA in psychology from San Francisco State University. She has taught Preparation for Composition and Reading (English 201A/B), Composition and Reading (1A), Composition and Literature (1B), Fundamentals of Reading and Writing (269 A/B) and creative writing  (English 010/210) at Laney College for the past two decades.

office: Tower 514

email: jjuanita@peralta.edu

website: www.judyjuanitasvirginsoul.com

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Ian Latta currently teaches Foundations in Reading and Writing (English 269) and a Writing Workshop (English 208) at Laney. Past courses taught at Laney include English 1A, English 201, and American Literature. He teaches Integrated Reading and Writing classes at SF State University, where he earned his Master’s in English in 2012. He also holds Certificates in teaching Composition and Post-Secondary Reading from SF State and a Bachelor’s in English from UC Berkeley. His research interests include Post-Process Composition, Multi-Modal Writing, and the intersection of music and language in Sound Poetry and Hip Hop. Even though he admits it is a cliche, he says  he learns something new every day from teaching at Laney and from the writing of his students.

office: Tower 514

email: ilatta@peralta.edu

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David Mullen

office: B 251

email: dmullen@peralta.edu

___________________________________Adrienne Oliver teaches Foundations in Reading & Writing (269A/B) and Preparation for Composition & Reading (201A/B). She earned a BA in Psychology from Hendrix College (Conway, AR), a Master of Arts in Professional and Technical Writing from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and a Master of Fine Arts in English and Creative Writing from Mills College. She lives in Oakland with a few other artists sharing a huge Victorian house. She can often be found hanging out with her writer friends gabbing about her first novel in progress.

office: Tower 514

email: aoliver@peralta.edu

website:http://laney.edu/aoliver/

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Roger Porter is from Oakland, CA. He earned his AA from Laney College in 2003, a BA from UC Berkeley with a concentration in multicultural literature in 2005, and a Master of Fine Arts in English and Creative Writing from Mills College in 2009. While teaching at Laney he has taught Foundations in Reading & Writing (269 A/B), Composition and Reading (1A),  Critical Thinking (5), and  African-American literature (031). He curates and hosts a quarterly reading series called “Soulful.”

office: Tower 508

email: rporter@peralta.edu

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Meryl Siegal received her PhD at U.C. Berkeley in Education writing her dissertation on the teaching and learning of Japanese. She directed the TESOL Certificate program at Holy Names College for five years, received a Fulbright and spent a year working throughout North and West Africa, taught TESOL at Ecole Normale in Dakar, Senegal, and has been teaching at Laney College since 2001, in both the ESL and English departments. At Laney, Meryl co-coordinated the Strengthening Pre-Collegiate Education at the Community Colleges grant for five years, which was a grant focused on basic skills instruction and professional development. Meryl has taught throughout the world and throughout the Bay Area. At Laney, Meryl teaches English 1A, 1B and Writing 5. Her professional publications include two co-edited volumes on writing pedagogy and immigrant learners: Generation 1.5 in College Composition: Teaching Academic Writing to U.S. – Educated Learners of English as a Second Language (2009) and Generation 1.5 meets College Composition: Issues in the Teaching of Writing to U.S. Educated Learners of English as a Second Language (1999). She was invited to be an area editor on research and applied linguistics for the Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics (2013). In her free time, Meryl is doing yoga or dancing salsa.

office: Tower 552

email:  msiegal@peralta.edu

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Chris Stroffolino earned a PhD from SUNY-Albany, and taught at Rutgers, NYU, Temple, LIU before moving west to become Visiting Distinguished Poet-in-Residence at Saint Mary’s College from 2001-2006, where he taught graduate seminars in poetry and poetics, as well as undergraduate literature and writing courses. At Laney, he has taught the foundational skills Composition and Reading courses (English 268/269 and English 201), as well as Shakespeare (English 017 and 217) and Creative Writing (English 10 and 210).

He has published two books of literary criticism, seven books of poetry, and won NYFA and Fund For Poetry grants. He has recorded and has performed his music on NPR’s Studio 360. At Laney, he teaches Preparation for Composition and Reading (English 201A&B).

office: Tower 514

email: chris.stroffolino@gmail.com

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prasannaPrasanna Vengadam teaches Composition and Reading (English 201A/B and 1A) and Critical Thinking (English 5) courses at Laney.  She also teaches 1A courses at Deanza College and has taught Speech and Business Communications courses at other state universities and community colleges over the 13 years.  Prasanna has a bachelor’s and master’s in British Literature, and a master’s in English (specialization in Technical Communications) from Northeastern University in Boston, MA.  Prior to teaching, Prasanna worked as a writer in corporate and marketing communications.  She is passionate about civic engagement and has served as a board member in civic organizations.  She founded a South Asian American non-profit group in Michigan that advocates for civil rights and immigration and naturalization needs.  Prasanna is also a graduate of Multicultural Leadership Series and Center for Progressive Leadership program.

​office:  Tower 514

email: pvengadam@peralta.edu

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Antonio Watkins teaches Composition and Reading (English 201 A&B, which includes the UBAKA learning community) and Basic Reading and Writing (English 269A&B). He earned a BA in English from Stanford and a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction in 2006. He lives in Richmond, CA with his wife, and can often be found reading a book, riding a motorcycle, or playing a guitar.

office: Tower 512

email:  awatkins@peralta.edu

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Chris Weidenbach (department co-chair) teaches Composition & Reading (English 1A and English 201A&B), Creative Writing (English 010A&B, English 210A&B), and literature courses including English 1B, Shakespeare (English 017 & 217), and Poetry (English 043 & 243). He earned a BA in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing from Loyola University-Chicago in 1993, and a Master of Fine Arts in Poetry from the University of Arizona in 1997. His poetry is weird, but has found some publication, including at Laney’s Good News magazine. He lives in Oakland with his wife and son (and two cats), advocates for democracy and human rights, tries to maintain a strong cardio status, and hollers like a fool for the A’s at the Coliseum.

office: Tower 550

email: cweidenbach@peralta.edu

website:http://laney.edu/chris-weidenbach/

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Shari Weiss teaches Composition & Reading (English 1A and English 201A&B), Creative Writing (English 010A&B, English 210A&B), Critical Thinking (English 5), and Basic Reading and Writing (English 269). She earned a BS in Journalism with an emphasis in English and Political Science in 1969 from Northwestern University and an MA in Public Relations from Kent State University in 1980. She lives in Novato, CA with her dog, cats, watercolors, and yoga outfits. She can often be found playing bridge or walking Lola, the Lhasa Apso Terrier.

office: Tower 510

email: sharisax@aol.com

website(s): www.sharisax.com

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Instructors Emeriti:

Rafaella “Raffi” Del Bourgo has been teaching at Laney College since 1997 including Freshman Composition (English 1A), Introduction to World Literature (English 1B), Critical Thinking (English 1C), and Creative Writing (English 10).  She earned her BA from U.C. Berkeley in anthropology and multi-cultural literature, and her MA from San Francisco State University in creative writing.  Her poetry has been published in Australia, Canada and the U.S. and she has won many awards including the 2012 Paumanok Prize and three nominations for a Pushcart Prize.  Her newest poetry collection Inexplicable Business: Poems Domestic and Wild is due out from Finishing Line Press in February 2014.  Ms. Del Bourgo has traveled all around the world and lived in Tasmania and Hawaii.  She currently resides in Berkeley with her husband and three cats.

email: rdelbourgo@comcast.net

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Jackie Graves (department co-chair) has taught English full time at Laney College since Fall 2004; receiving tenure in 2008 was one of the greatest accomplishments of her life. She enjoys all kinds of writing–poetry, fiction, personal essays, memoir, spoken word–and some of her most joyous moments in life were on writing retreats in Costa Rica, the Santa Cruz mountains, the Oregon coast, and near a cattle ranch in Wyoming. She believes writing can be transformative and life changing. She loves hearing her students’ stories and nurturing their emerging voices.  Jackie earned an MFA from Mills College in Literature and Creative Writing, and a BA cum laude in Economics from Williams College.

office: Tower 550

email:  jgraves@peralta.edu

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Judith Rathbone argues teaching is a two-way process, learns from her students every day, and has witnessed exceptional student writing.  She values reading, writing and advocacy, and has taught many different English courses at Laney College and other community colleges in the Bay Area since 2005. In addition to the traditional college reading selections, she has offered memoir texts on women boxers, child marriage, Nigerian immigrants, learning disabilities, the Chinese underclass, growing up in Oakland, and North Korean prison camps.  She has been teaching Creative Writing at the Lafayette Senior Center since 2009, and has participated in the Prison University Program at San Quentin.  Judith earned an Online Teaching Certificate from Merritt College, believes in the power of Moodle and BlackBoard to equalize educational opportunities and thinks basic skills students have the right to learn online. Her TESOL Certificate is from the University of California-Berkeley and she did her student teaching at College of Alameda. A drop-out from a sociology doctoral program at the University of Massachusetts where she honed her research skills, she earned a J.D. from Golden Gate University while working for Planned Parenthood, and an MFA in English from Mills College. Her research interests include community writing, community college attendance patterns, the education of those who have been involved with the judicial system, and strategies for accelerating multilingual students. Judith is currently preparing for opportunities in electronic instruction and public speaking.  She sees the value in English course textbooks, thinks her office hour is for any student who needs help, is opposed to prescriptive grammar, thinks reading and writing are the foundation for all college courses, believes verbs are special pivot points, knows the value of the academic essay, has been proud to assist student with their transfer goals, wishes the world was a kinder place, and appreciates the opportunity to gather material for her own writing while on the job.

email: jrathbone@peralta.edu

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Andrena Zawinski has taught Creative Writing (10), Introduction to Poetry (043), Reading and Composition (1B, 1A, 201), Critical Thinking (05), and Foundations in Reading and Writing (269). She earned an M.Ed. from the University of Pittsburgh where she did doctoral work in Teaching of College Writing. She also taught for many years as a Demonstration Teacher and Language Arts Specialist in the public school system as well as at the University of Pittsburgh. She is a Teacher-Consultant from the WPA Writing Project now affiliated with the Bay Area Writing Project. She has edited two poetry anthologies, authored four chapbooks and two full collections of poetry—one a Kenneth Patchen Award winner and the other a PEN Oakland Josephine Miles award recipient. Zawinski runs the San Francisco Bay Area Women’s Writing Salon and is Features Editor at PoetryMagazine.com.

office: Tower 506

email: andrena.zawinski@att.net

website: http://andrenazawinski.wordpress.com/category/poetry

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