Professor of English Dr. Rachel Reneslacis and students Cana Cooper and Olivia Webb have recently been working together to teach a variety of courses at the Bradley County Jail.
This semester, Cooper, Reneslacis, and Webb have held two resume writing, two interview skills, two essay writing, and two poetry writing classes. They work with both male and female inmates.
“I believe that everybody has a right to education, and it's been a privilege for me to contribute to the education programs for inmates,” said Reneslacis, who is also the director of Lee’s writing program. “The students at the jail have been great to work with. They're really eager to participate in classes, and it's been enjoyably challenging to work with Olivia and Cana to design materials that meet these students' needs."
The trio uses similar materials for the resume writing unit that Reneslacis uses in her technical and professional writing class at Lee. For the interview skills, essay writing, and poetry classes, Reneslacis and Webb have collaborated in creating a lesson plan for each.
“Dr. Reneslacis has been a blessing to the program,” said Cooper. “Having someone who is an expert on the subjects we are teaching has been a huge help to me and Olivia.”
Webb, who teaches creative writing courses at the jail with Cooper, reached out to Reneslacis last semester after someone at the jail approached her about teaching a resume class.
“Dr. Reneslacis has always been supportive of the creative writing course at the jail since I began it in November 2017,” said Webb. “She is actually the one who got me connected with Cana to join the team. So, when the jail asked me to do a resume class, I saw an opportunity to get Dr. Reneslacis directly involved.”
Webb is a senior English major with an emphasis in writing. She will graduate this spring. Cooper is a sophomore in the same degree program. She became a part of the creative writing course at the jail in January 2019 and will take it over after Webb graduates.
“I have loved participating in all of the workshops with Olivia and Dr. Reneslacis, and I am excited to continue volunteering at the jail,” said Cooper. “I can see the impact it is making, and I leave feeling that I have learned something new every time.”
According to Cooper, the trio has received positive feedback from the inmates and the participants have been giving suggestions for future classes.
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