Dr. Marcellus Leonard
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Meet Marcellus Leonard
Center for Teaching and Learning
- Ph.D. Teaching English Composition: Illinois State University
- Former retail merchandiser who managed The Limited and was soft lines merchandiser and unit buying control manager for Sears, Roebuck, & Co., I have three children, a son and two daughters, and 18 grandchildren. Some of my grandchildren are finishing high school and starting college, so I am focused very sharply on the success of young people. I am married, a native of Chicago, Illinois, and a poet who enjoys teaching creative writing.
- I started college very late and finished at 50. My children and I
A quote by Dr. Marcellus Leonard, "The word 'active' characterizes my learning philosophy more than anything else. It must be an active class."
were in school at the same time. I am an associate minister at Calvary Missionary Baptist Church which accounts for my interests in spiritual matters. The creative writing part of who I am and what I do is my passion, but I have a particular affinity for helping students with a background like mine—inner city kids, minority kids, kids from a socioeconomic background that was challenging when they were younger who need a hand up or someone to understand.
- My own dissertation had to do with teaching in the cultural context. I looked at three African-American males who were severely challenged with regard to writing. I followed them over one semester teaching in the cultural context. This means that I encouraged them to write about things that were significantly involved with their way of being in the world—their culture, their racial identity, the communities they came from, their families, whatever they knew about their reality that was compelling to them became the text that we worked on. After one semester I found that students actually wrote better, wrote more, and were more interested in the writing process and learning to improve when they were allowed to write about things that were meaningful to them.
Center for Teaching and Learning:
- I am the Interim Director for the Center. My job is to help students succeed. We help people with writing at every level—from the freshman level to the doctoral level. We help with math, biology, chemistry, and writing. We have seven graduate teaching assistants who help with composition, five who help with mathematics, one who helps with biology and one who helps with chemistry. We also have five undergraduate tutors who help students with composition, math, and writing. I find that assisting students to be successful is the most important thing in my life. Students study in the Center for Teaching and Learning.
Students can get academic advice, study, or just hang out in the Center for Teaching and Learning.
Major project underway:
- A sabbatical that will begin August 16, 2008, to write an autobiographical historical novel set in historic Robbins, Illinois, which was founded in the late 19th century as a real estate speculation connected with the Chicago World’s Fair and the projected growth of the city into the remote southern suburbs. The speculation did not work out and the land was settled by Black people. My family arrived there in 1953, long after it was established. My book is a coming of age story about my brother and I as we grew up there.
- The word active characterizes my learning philosophy more than anything else. It must be an active class. Students must be involved in the class—in the teaching of the class in the discussions of the class, in activities of the class and small group strategies of the class. To stand up and talk to students for 45 minutes or 3 hours is not the way that students learn best; they learn by doing. I like to have my students write and then present what they wrote. Sometimes they do this by giving a speech, sometimes by reading aloud. I also like to have students talk about what they’re going to write before they write it. We do this by having a panel, sometimes set up like a talk show, and the students lose themselves in their ideas and their discussions without realizing that they are collecting information for writing the paper. We sometimes have impromptu plays.
- I am one of the founders of Poets’ and Writers’ Literary Forum of Springfield.
Advice for prospective students:
- I always say the same thing, I’ve been saying it for years; it was said to me when I decided to return to school. Read everything you’re assigned to read and read it on time. Come to class every day. Turn in every assignment that you’re asked to write and turn it in on time. Have a schedule; keep the schedule. That’s not very hard to do. Set your priorities on being a student. Make that why you are. We have a lot of excuses for not going to class—doing other things, having a game, having a date, not being able to get up on time—those are all excuses. The main thing is to know what you’re about and do it. It’s very simple. If you read everything and write every paper and you do it on time, you may not be an A student, that requires a special gift, but you will be successful. Don’t go home on weekends. Be a college student one hundred percent.
Best thing about UIS:
- Also, i t’s a small campus with a small class size which means that the teacher has more time to spend with you and you can get your questions answered. It’s a new campus: the buildings are new, the residence halls are new, nothing is crowded. How wonderful it is to have a townhouse or an apartment with your own room. There’s something quiet and sustaining about being here, and I highly recommend it.