My Class Portfolio

My first class in the Mass Communication field has come to an end. It has been a blast learning different media writing styles (including this blog), but all good things must come to an end. Attached is my class portfolio that contains my resume and samples of my writing from the year. I hope you enjoy.

My Class Portfolio



Waking up on a cold, dreary morning in McMinnville, Ore., I figured it would be the perfect day to head to the beach. After all, everyone knows the weather on the coast is different from the weather inland.

So I called up a few buddies, and informed them of my plan. While everyone else was wrapped up in blankets watching TV on the couch, we would take a day trip to the Oregon coast, specifically Lincoln City, Ore.

My spur of the moment day trip, to the coast, was a way to shine a light on this delightful place that we tend to forget about, unless it is 70 degrees and sunny out. We could play on the beach, visit the local stores or simply take in the environment.

We get so caught up in the hubbub of work and everyday life that, sometimes, we need to take a step back to enjoy everything around us. The coziness of the beach town and beauty of nature, alone, make this trip worth the short drive.

While planning a trip to the beach, the first thing that comes to mind is the weather. This thought is even more prevalent in Oregon due to the fact it rains for 350 days of the year (at least people not from the Pacific Northwest would have you believe this).

Realistically, barring a torrential downpour, the beach is enjoyable any time of the year.

The weather wasn’t an issue for our trip, since we were going rain or shine, but nobody wants to see dark clouds hanging around as they head out of town.

Snacks and good music are essential when going on a trip like this, so we made sure to charge the iPod and stop at the local convenient store for all of the essentials, drinks, chips and Goldfish crackers (my personal favorites).

One nice thing about this trip is the simplicity of the route. Ask anyone how to get to Lincoln City, and the answer will be the same, “Just head west until you run into the ocean.”

The sun was trying to break through the dark clouds as we drove along. After what seemed like hours (really it was about 45 minutes), we caught our first glimpse of the shimmering, blue body of water.

To make everything better, the sun had come out from behind the clouds.

It was a perfect day.

The best part about the beach on a Saturday morning in fall is the sense of being alone. A person can really feel close to nature here, and they don’t have to worry about it being spoiled by hundreds of other beach-goers.

That isn’t saying that people are bad. In fact, some would say that people at the beach are easier to get along with. As self-described beach bum Greg Rogers said, “Everyone I meet here seems extremely nice. I walk the beach every morning, and I’ve never met someone that was rude.”

That is the beauty of a trip like this. It is relaxing for everyone. It gives you a chance to forget about your problems, and simply focus on the now. And it is so simple!

No experience is necessary to enjoy the coast. If you have been on the beach every day for 20 years, like Greg, or it is your first time, it will be fun.

My buddies and I brought our Frisbee along, because toys always make a trip better. After getting our exercise for the day, we headed to the tide pools.

This is one of the fascinating parts of the Oregon coast. The wildlife is completely accessible, and we got a first-hand look at the microscopic lives of sea anemones, urchins, crabs and tiny fish.

This day trip is for anyone. At low tide, a couple, looking at the tide pools, said this was their first trip to the Oregon coast. They were from Utah, and they were visiting family. The couple had never been here, but managed to have a great time exploring the tiny creations that the beach had to offer.

In our short time there, we were able to see a flock of seagulls fight over food, and two crabs fight each other to the death. This is something you won’t see every day back home.

Seagulls and crabs are just a small example of the wildlife that can be seen on the coast. I didn’t even mention the whales, seals, fish and other exciting things there are! (Of course, we did not see any of these things while at the beach.)

To really experience this trip it is best to be out walking around, but that isn’t the only way. There were countless cars out for a morning drive. The warm confines of a car are nice, but there is nothing quite like sand forming around your toes.

This leads to the make or break part of the trip: What clothes to wear. There is no such thing as “warm” when it is November on the Oregon coast. Even a sunny day will be chilly.

A jacket or sweatshirt is best to wear, and something to keep your head warm (baseball cap, beanie, scarf etc) is always nice.. Long pants are ideal, but some brave souls may want to wear shorts.

Personally, I showed up in some rolled up jeans, a sweatshirt, a beanie and no shoes.

Depending on how much you plan to walk, good shoes or boots usually do the trick. Or you can close your eyes, imagine you are in Hawaii, and go barefoot.

We had our fun on the beach and decided to go up to the main street for a bit. My group of friends was still full from our food, but we walked by a vast array of restaurants that smelled delicious.

The desire to stop in for a bite to eat was nearly overwhelming. But we knew we had to get back to McMinnville. So we piled into the car, knowing that this trip had been a success.

We had gone to the coast, battled the harsh weather of fall and lived to tell the tale.

The worst part of going on a trip like this is that I have to return home eventually. Even my friend Zach, who never has fun doing anything, said, “That was way more fun than I expected. Let’s go again in the spring.”

We got back to my apartment, and I immediately started thinking about the beach. We had been gone for an hour, but it felt like I couldn’t remember the smell of the water, or the sounds of the waves breaking onto the sand.

So, we decided that another trip would have to happen in the immediate future. For those who haven’t been able to experience this, take a trip! It’s cheap, quick, easy, and most of all, fun.

Have you every sat down to read Ernest Hemingway, and thought to yourself, I wonder where he was sitting when he wrote this? Well it just so happens that I have the perfect travel plan for you!

The map (below) will show you the four best places to experience, first-hand, Hemingway’s homes and places of writing. Many people consider Hemingway the most influential American writer, and his houses have become popular tourist destinations.

Ernest Hemingway, Milan 1918

Ernest Hemingway, Milan 1918

The first site to visit would be the Shakespeare and Company book store in Paris, France. This book store was home to many great writers of the 20th century, like James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein. This was where Hemingway spent a lot of his time before writing the book that made him famous, The Sun Also Rises.

The next place to visit would be Hemingway’s house in Havana, Cuba. His time living there influenced his epic story, Old Man and The Sea, that won him the Nobel Prize in Literature. While living in Cuba, he was loved by the people. They still honor him to this day, and have many memorials in his name. Hemingway even created an unlikely friendship with Fidel Castro.

The third place on the map is Key West, Florida. Like the other places, Hemingway loved it in Florida and wrote many pieces of literature here. His house is still kept in pristine shape, and is open as a museum to honor Hemingway’s career.

Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.

– Ernest Hemingway

The last place to visit would be Ketchum, Idaho. This is where Hemingway ultimately took his life. He is still buried there.

To this day, Hemingway is one of my favorite writers, and one of the greatest of all time. He gave a voice to the “lost generation“, and you should definitely take the time to learn more about him.

On the surface, Don Witten is an English teacher at McMinnville High School. In reality he is so much more than that. He is a role model to his students, his colleagues, and his friends.

Everywhere, people seem to be saying that the education system is in need of help. They say that we don’t have the kid’s best interests in mind. They claim high school level teachers aren’t up to par with the system, and no one wants to be a teacher.

When someone finally is interested in teaching, they suddenly say, “We need better, smarter teachers.”

Photo Courtesy of Don Witten

That may be true in some parts of the country, but these naysayers just aren’t looking closely enough. There are great teachers everywhere, and they are doing their part to mold the minds of kids every day.

Don is one of those great teachers. He is an ordinary guy who is trying to make a difference in the world.

Don has made his classroom a place where kids want to learn, a place where learning is enjoyable. According to Don, it is really easy to maintain a classroom like this. A teacher just needs to be real with the kids.

After school, there were kids in his classroom hanging out, working on assorted projects. It was an atmosphere that was very conducive to learning. This was a place where kids could look forward to going to class and learning.

As a teacher, Don is extremely respected. Numerous students, that had graduated years ago, raved about him. A former student, Suzy Sales, said, “Don is one of those teachers that you look back upon, wishing you had picked his brain for every bit of wisdom he possesses.”

Suzy went on to say, “He’s a brilliant teacher, yet maintains a humble and humorous demeanor that is enjoyed by all.”

At the High School level, students can’t be expected to simply pay attention. Their thoughts jump around a mile a minute, and most of those thoughts have nothing to do with class. It is the teacher’s job to keep the class involved and focused.

If Don is going to lecture for an entire class period, he will not grab the attention of their students. He said, “You have to vary the amount of things you do in class. A class based on lecture, day in and day out, won’t reach very many kids. You can’t try to do too much.”

He insisted that you must engage with the class, and humor is absolutely necessary to create an atmosphere that is conducive to learning.

This is especially important in classes that focus on the humanities. Don’s classes are all about emotion, and his classroom is an outlet for this emotion. Not letting the kids express themselves is depriving them of their educational experience.

Don’s teaching style is a reflection of his life outside of the classroom. He doesn’t just play the role of teacher. His life is occupied with many of the ideas he teaches, among other things.

Don brings this personal experience into his new class that focuses on lyricism and how it relates to poetry. He is a big fan of classic rock music, and enjoys playing the guitar in his free time.

Photo Courtesy of Don Witten


This is the type of class that is needed in at high schools, because it incorporates ideas that the average teenager can relate to. He involves music, and ties it together with literature.

He describes himself as easygoing, willing to go with the flow. He loves to be outside. On top of playing guitar, he loves to visit his family and write. He is able to bring his life’s experience into teaching with his writing and love of music every week.

At one point recently, Don considered retiring, but he said, “When your job is so great, why quit. I want to stick it out for a few more years at least. Especially since I got this lyricism class started.”

The alternative to teaching, for Don, would be walking around on his farm. Don said, “The farm gets pretty boring after a while. There isn’t much to do besides walk around and look at stuff.”

Still, that is where he spends most of his time. Located a few miles outside of McMinnville, Don and his family are able to live a life that is free from the everyday hustle of city life.

Photo Courtesy of Don Witten

It is easy to see that teaching isn’t his only contribution to the community. He is the self-proclaimed scribe of the school, and twice a week sends out a piece of writing to an email list. On Tuesdays he sends out a poem, sometimes his own, that simply lets people relax and experience poetry for a while. A recent poem he sent out was titled “Who Loves the Rain” by Francis Shaw:

Who loves rain,

        And loves his home,

And looks on life with quiet eyes,

        Him will I follow through the storm,

        And at his hearth-fire keep me warm;

The poems are just a relaxing way for friends and colleagues to cap off the day.

On Friday, he sends out what he calls “Field Notes” which is writing about any particular subject. His most recent Field Notes piece mentioned a wheelchair evacuation practice that turned into a powerful emotional experience that really changed his way of looking at life. He said, “Words fail me right now trying to capture the emotion of that moment.”

Sometimes it is hard for a student to see a teacher as a normal person as opposed to an object that only exists in the classroom. “They view you as some other kind of life form, and if they can see a personal side of you then you start to build relationships,” Don said.

A new teacher has to go into teaching with the right mindset. Being a teacher is not being a dictator where only their opinion matters. Don explained that you need to go into teaching with the realization that you won’t be able to change everything.

“They say if you love your job, you will never have to work a day in your life.” As clichéd as it sounds, that quote describes Don’s teaching perfectly. He continues to teach because he loves doing it.

That isn’t the only reason he continues to teach. There are also those moments that written words don’t do justice towards.

At the end of last year Don received an unexpected visit from his senior students in a class made up of all age levels. After the senior class had finished with their classes, they showed up anyway like it was a normal day.

When Don asked them what they were doing in class, they informed him they had something to give him, a gift. They had created a DVD of every kid talking about how much they enjoyed the class, and the experience of it.

He said, “The most rewarding thing about teaching is the relationships that you build with kids. And you hear back from kids in class five, or 10, or 12 years ago. And that’s the rewarding thing. To just hear them say, ‘Wow, that book literally changed my life,’ or, ‘That class changed my life.’ How do you measure that? That’s pretty good stuff.”

That is pretty good stuff. Hopefully Don will stick around, and continue to impact lives.

Photo Courtesy of Don Witten

I just finished using Storify for the first time. My post talks about Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc), and how it has changed the outlook on Literature.

You all should check it out, and let me know what you think.

How Social Media Has Changed Literature

My Midweek Getaway

(*Does anyone else think that coming up with a title is the hardest part about blogging?*)

This last week, I decided to go against everything I stand for.  I actually went to an event that was “fun”.  And no, I’m not talking about posting up with a book for six hours straight (although I do find that fun).

I decided to head up to Portland for a concert on Wednesday night.  On a whim, my roommate and I bought nine dollar tickets to go see The Asteroids Galaxy Tour.  This turned out to be one of the best events I have ever been to.

We showed up at the Crystal Ballroom in downtown Portland about 45 minutes early, which gave us plenty of time to soak in the atmosphere and help ourselves to one of McMenamin’s tasty beverages.

I honestly didn’t know much about the band, other than that awesome Heineken commercial (see below) that jump-started their popularity in the U.S.  So I truly had no idea what to expect.


“What does this have to do with my previous posts?” you might ask.  Well both music and writing have their place  among what we call “art”.  I mean, a song is essentially poetry put to music.  If you were to take out the chorus of a song you would get a poem.

One of the main differences between the two would be the way it makes you feel.  When reading poetry, you are left to decide how it makes you feel.  They are just words on paper with no structured emotion behind them.

Music, especially live music, dictates how you feel.  Everything about a song: music, words, tempo, all come together to put you into a certain mood.

That is one of the reasons that this concert was great.  The performance was so full of raw energy that the crowd couldn’t help but dance along, loving every single second of it.  For those few hours the crowd was connected with the music.

Sometimes you feel like you’re running around in the clouds,
Sometimes you feel like you’re living your life wasting time,
Oh you’re so true yet so blue ~ is it all in your mind?
Tell me, amaze me, seduce me, you still make it mine.

-The Asteroids Galaxy Tour – Push the Envelope

These are some of the lyrics from my favorite song at the concert. This is just one example of the differences in style between poetry and song lyrics. Compared to poetry, reading these words doesn’t quite bring out the same emotions or thoughts. But you can still see hints of rhyme and rhythm in the lines. It is only when you hear the words live that you can truly appreciate it.

I guess what I am trying to say is this was a great experience. I don’t think the two things (poetry and music) are completely comparable, but neither are they that different. Let’s just say they are both wonderful, and both have their place in the world.

Oh, and listen to The Asteroids Galaxy Tour! Like my great new friend, Rachel, 25 from Portland said, “The band is amazing. I am so glad I they played here, and I was lucky enough to see em’!”

Now enjoy some pictures of the concert.

My Top Ten: Books

Now that I am roughly 95% done with my major, I thought it would be nice to reflect on the classes I have taken the last couple years. I am in the process of completing roughly my eighth Literature class, and I wanted to look back on some of the books that I’ve read in my previous classes. I decided to throw together my own top 10 list of these books (including the class in which I read it).

(Disclaimer: This is based purely on my enjoyment of the books. I am not talking about which is written the best, or which is the most critically acclaimed.)


10. Howards End by E.M Forester (Art & Politics)
One of the great British novels from the early 20th century, Howards End takes a close look at the struggles of class. The story is wonderful, and keeps the reader engaged as it takes you through the changing landscape of England.



9. Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth (American Lit: 1914-1960)
This story takes a close look at different class issues in America, and leaves many issues on the reader’s plate. On surface value, it is a quick read and quite good.

8. The Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne (Brit/American Lit)
Hawthorne’s great social experiment (Brook Farm) on paper. This is an interesting book that entertains until the end. I believe it gives great insight into the process of writing as well.

7. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (American Lit: 1914-1960)
This was Ellison’s only published novel, and it is simply amazing. I don’t think any other book better portrays the struggle of African-Americans in 20th century America than this. Excellent.

6. Atonement by Ian McEwan (Contemporary British Novels)
This book isn’t as popular as the movie, but I believe it is way better. It is a great love story (or loss of love?) that leaves you guessing until the very end.

5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (American Lit: 1914-1960)
An American “classic”. It seems to be on everyone’s reading list, and it deserves to be. Some even go as far to call it the “Great American Novel”. Overall, a great enjoyable.

4. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (Contemporary British Novels)
A twist within a twist within a twist. What’s not to love right? Throw in classic 19th century England, some crazy people and murder… You got a great book.

Zadie Smith

3. Various Works by Shakespeare (Shakespeare: Comedies and Histories)
I know this isn’t a book, but how could I claim to be Mr. English major and then leave Shakespeare off this list? To get a little more specific, I would say A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be the play I enjoyed the most.

2. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (American Lit: Natures Nation)
This is a quick 2 hour read, but it is amazing. This is Hemingway at his finest. It is so simple, yet so ripe with imagery and deeper meaning. Hemingway was definitely deserving of his Nobel Prize after this story.

1. White Teeth by Zadie Smith (Art & Politics)
Maybe this book is just more relative then the others, but I could imagine myself being in this story. Multiple story-lines weave together, spelling out a great tale that spans generations. Smith’s style of writing brings together many thought provoking issues with a dash of humor and realism on the side. Overall, it is such an enjoyable book. I would recommend it to everyone.


So there you have it, my favorite books over the last two years. You may not agree with my opinion, but feel free to tell me what you think regardless.

**(Also, I am currently reading Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko which, when finished, will be in my top 10.)**