New English professor begins a career she hadn’t imagined in high school

Emily Anderson, 28, is an Assistant Professor of English at Pierce College outside room 2200 her office in Woodland Hills, Calif. on Thursday, April 17, 2014. Photo: Marc Dionne
Emily Anderson, 28, is an Assistant Professor of English at Pierce College outside room 2200 her office in Woodland Hills, Calif. on Thursday, April 17, 2014. Photo: Marc Dionne

Beginning her first year as an assistant professor of English at Pierce College is something one professor would have never seen herself doing in high school.

Emily Anderson is 28 years old and one of the new full-time professors here at Pierce.

“In high school I remember I declared to my English teacher, ‘I never want to be an English teacher,’” Anderson said. “How can you want to teach this subject, it’s so subjective?”

As she continued to take the required English courses at the University of California, Los Angeles, her love of the written word began to grow.

“I took some classes and I really started enjoying it. And then I thought ‘How can I make this a full-time job, talking about books and talking about effective writing, and reading articles and poems and short stories,’” Anderson said. “Majoring in English is the way to do that.”

Anderson approaches the subject by giving her students the lasting tools to evaluate a piece of writing.

“I like to focus on how to think about something as opposed to what to think,” Anderson said. “I want them to think about how things work, how an effective essay works, what a good thesis statement is. So I guess the theme of all my classes is how to think about literature and writing as opposed to just memorizing things all the time.”

Anderson holds her classes to high standards but is also willing to take the time to help.

“She’s nice but she’s really hard at grading though. I thought because she’s younger she’d be more easy going,” said Ashley Guadamuz, an 18-year-old veterinarian major in Anderson’s English 28 class. “She’ll explain and if someone doesn’t understand she has a lot of patience.”

Anderson holds dedicated office hours and is very inviting whether or not students have an appointment.

Jamie Ray, 30, is an English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor whose office is in the same building as Anderson’s. She has noticed Anderson’s commitment to her students.

“I can hear her having conversations with her students and they all seem to benefit from meeting with her. Very friendly and approachable and also humble. I think it’s really important for instructors to be able to admit when they feel that they don’t know everything,” Ray said. “She’s English, I’m ESL. So if she has an ESL question she’ll ask me, if I have an English question I’ll ask her. I think that’s a good characteristic.”

Originally from Manhattan Beach, Anderson previously taught as an adjunct at Pierce, Cerritos College, and Harbor College before landing the full-time job here. She also loves to travel, and in the summer of 2007 took the part in a program teaching in China.

“It was this really cool program that you can do if you’re a junior or a senior in college and if you are an English major. If you’re interested in teaching you can apply,” Anderson said. “They basically pay for your flight and for a very rudimentary dorm room in exchange for your teaching.”

This wasn’t the only time Anderson had to deal with a cramped living situation. After UCLA, Anderson did her postgraduate studies at New York University living in an apartment that Anderson describes as a little bigger than her office.

“There was a kitchen in there. There was a bathroom and a ‘bedroom.’ It was basically just a closet,” Anderson said. “It wasn’t even an actual door. It was a doorframe and you just fall into the bed.”

Although her living conditions were cramped, outside of her apartment is what made the experience worthwhile. Anderson has a passion for architecture, city planning, and urban design. Her time in New York strengthened that passion.

“I just fell in love with the lifestyle, being able to walk around places and look at buildings,” Anderson said.

Currently Anderson lives in downtown LA where she can soak up what the city has to offer. She often encourages her students to take advantage of the area.

“I’m a big downtown LA booster. I’m really interested in cities. I’m always on the blogs looking at what’s going to open up downtown,” Anderson said. “I’m always telling my students ‘Go visit downtown. It’s not as scary as you think, I promise.’”