Ayan Omar – Alum and Leader

This week, the SCSU English Department feels very fortunate to feature one of our past graduates, Ayan Omar.

Ms. Omar currently teaches Language Arts at St. Cloud Technical High School. Her students are very fortunate to be learning from such a tremendous leader.

In her words:

“When I was a little girl, a black-Somali-Muslim refugee little girl, earning a master’s degree in English never seemed imaginable. Earning a master’s degree in English Studies at St. Cloud State solidified my ambitious refugee narrative and community efforts. Like many great writers, growing up, reading became my vehicle to success. Books buried my failures and inspired my successes. Gifted writers taught me how to express myself more eloquently. I fell in love with language as an art. Even today, amid the chaos and division of society, I maintain my faith in a better world by reading one book at a time. In my earlier years, Maya Angelou, in her book I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, validated that all my experiences color the storyline of my life. Nathaniel Hawthorne, in his book The Scarlet Letter, branded my otherness as a pearl, despite what those in power might think. Lastly, the great writers, Whitman, Emerson, and Thoreau satiated my curiosity of transcendence. Their writings inspired me to practice intentional listening in search of a universal truth. Reading provided me a clear path to knowledge and pushed me toward civic engagement.

The English Studies graduate program at St. Cloud State fostered my personal growth. For instance, my thesis evaluated the goodness of black women using three of Toni Morrison’s greatest artifacts: The Bluest EyeBeloved, and Sula. These three creative works expose the conflicting disposition and the unconscious bias held toward black women’s goodness by society. With the help of Dr. Monica Pelaez, I uncovered how Morrison writes progressively and pragmatically about black women and for black women. The continuous support, patience, hard questions, and immense knowledge of Dr. Pelaez allowed me to narrow down my topic, structure my thesis, and revise continuously. Her insightful comments allowed me to learn and produce throughout the entire experience.

I am forever grateful to Toni Morrison and the faculty at St. Cloud State’s English department, specifically Dr. Monica Pelaez, Dr. Constance Perry, Dr. Judith Dorn, and Dr. Christopher Lehman, for their insightful guidance.”

If that isn’t inspiring, then I don’t know what is. We have such an esteemed faculty in our English department, and Ms. Omar does a great job highlighting that fact. We are so proud, as a department, to have been a part of Ms. Omar’s life and we are excited to see where her journey takes her.

Are you interested in learning more about Ms. Omar? 

Click here to read more about Ms. Omar and her journey!

Check out this video to hear her TED Talk!

Ms. Omar also had the opportunity to write a compelling article for the Washington Post where she discusses explaining her “faith to fearful Americans.”

If you’re still itching for more, please take the time to watch this video, a recording of “Face Value: Communication on a Human Scale,” a presentation she delivered at St. John’s University in 2019. Her story and

Last but not least, we highly encourage you to read her thesis, “What does it mean to be a good black woman?”, a study of the writings of Toni Morrison.

The English Language is Weird Pt. 2 – English Games

Check this out!

In an attempt to make people chuckle, we’re gonna play some games this week, just to help prove how silly the English language really is!

Game #1 – Place the word “only” anywhere on the sentence.

She told him that she loved him.

ONLY she told him that she loved him.
She ONLY told him that she loved him.
She told ONLY him that she loved him.
She told him ONLY that she loved him.
She told him that ONLY she loved him.
She told him that she ONLY loved him.
She told him that she loved ONLY him.
She told him that she loved him ONLY.

Game #2 – This sentence has seven different meanings depending on the stressed word.

I never said she stole my money.

I never said she stole my money.
I never said she stole my money.
I never said she stole my money.
I never said she stole my money.
I never said she stole my money.
I never said she stole my money.
I never said she stole my money.

I never said she stole my money. (Someone else did.)
I never said she stole my money. (I would never rat her out like that.)
I never said she stole my money. (I merely implied that she stole my money.)
I never said she stole my money. (I just said someone stole my money and never actually pointed fingers at her.)
I never said she stole my money. (She’s just taking a really long time to pay back that loan.)
I never said she stole my money. (She stole money, sure, but not mine!)
I never said she stole my money. (She stole some other things from me, yes, but not my money!)

Game #3 – What is the correct way to spell POTATO?

If GH can stand for P as in ‘hiccough,’
If OUGH can stand for O as in ‘dough,’
If PHTH can stand for T as in ‘phthisis,’
If EIGH can stand for A as in ‘neighbor,’
If TTE can stand for T as in ‘gazette,’
If EAU can stand for O as in ‘plateau,’

Then the correct way to spell potato is really


Can you come up with any other words that could be spelled in this ridiculous manner??

We hope you at least got one chuckle out of these games!!

Former Student Published in TESL Canada Journal

The SCSU English Department has some really amazing students, both current and former. Many of our students go on to accomplish great things! An education from St. Cloud State provides students with the skills and opportunities to reach these accomplishments.

We were recently informed of one of these accomplishments. Darren LaScotte, former SCSU English Department student, recently had one of his papers accepted for publication.

Mr. LaScotte was a student in Dr. Kim Choonkyong’s ENGL 670 (Second Language Vocabulary Acquisition) course during the Summer 2019 semester. Following the course, he submitted his final paper, a perspective piece, to TESL Canada Journal. The paper was well received and was published on their site on July 31, 2020.

The abstract to Mr. LaScotte’s piece, “Leveraging Listening Texts in Vocabulary Acquisition for Low-literate Learners” is as follows:

To date, the vast majority of research in second language (L2) vocabulary acquisition has looked at reading, but relatively few studies have explored the potential for vocabulary acquisition through listening. As for participants involved, studies concerning first language (L1) acquisition have mainly focused on pre- and emergent-reading children, whereas those concerning L2 acquisition comprised learners already highly literate in their L1. Like other research areas of second language acquisition (SLA), learners with low or no literacy in their L1 have been virtually neglected in these studies. Clearly, who we study determines what we know in SLA, yet there exists a significant gap in research literature regarding how understudied, low-literate (and illiterate) populations with strong oral traditions may acquire L2 vocabulary through listening. This paper attempts to bridge the gap in research on cognitive processing and L2 vocabulary acquisition through listening. In light of this, relevant pedagogical implications for low-literate populations are discussed.

Let’s support Mr. LaScotte by heading over to TESL Canada Journal’s website and reading his piece!

You can also go straight to the PDF of his article by clicking here.

If you’d like to learn more about Mr. LaScotte, click here to view his Google Site.

If you liked “Leveraging Listening Texts in Vocabulary Acquisition for Low-literate Learners,” click here to see his other publications!

New faculty directions for St. Cloud’s teaching license program

Since 2018, the English Department’s new English Education professor, Dr. Michael Dando, has been mobilizing teaching license students with his culturally relevant pedagogy–recently recognized with one of this year’s Miller Scholar Awards, among St. Cloud State’s highest honors. Michael’s research explores how students engage youth culture and critical literacy development toward democratic and civic engagement. In particular, he studies how students and teachers use elements of hip-hop culture to interpret and cultivate central representations of self, community, and pro-social world views, and how teachers and students might enhance these learning environments to provide rich learning experiences that students will see as highly connected to formal tools and ideas. This work involves attending closely to the design of representations and tools within these academic spaces as well as the artifacts (both tangible and intangible) constructed by students.

Dr. Dando serves on the Executive Planning Committee for The Bias Inside Us Project at SCSU in partnership with the Smithsonian.

The Smithsonian Institution, committed to leading and encouraging civil dialogue on important issues facing our nation and the world, is preparing a community engagement project called The Bias Inside Us. Our goal is to help visitors understand and counter their implicit biases and build capacity in communities to convene dialogue that will increase empathy and create more inclusive schools, communities, and workplaces.

He also partners with Teachers College Columbia on the Remixing Wakanda Project.

In collaboration with professors Michael DandoJohn Jennings, and Dr. Nathan Holbert, the Re-mixing Wakanda project examines how youth from communities historically underrepresented and overlooked in the classroom, arts, and sciences might take this movement to create new representations of and for themselves through Afrofuturism, critical making, and design practices. This project aims to examine how young people communicate and articulate who they see themselves to be and why this matters, through an epistemological framework that questions and reimagines the present and past–seeing them as collections of objects, representations, and meanings that can be modified, mixed, and repurposed to imagine future societies and technologies that center people of color. It is through this interdisciplinary and sociocultural lens we re-imagine both STEAM and makerspaces that disrupt dominant notions of what can and should occur as well as dominant understandings of who belongs and can excel in these fields.

Recent article publications

  • Dando, M. (2017). We got next: Hip-hop pedagogy and the next generation of democratic education. Kappa Delta Pi Record53(1), 28-33.
  • Dando, M. B., Holbert, N., & Correa, I. (2019). Remixing Wakanda: Envisioning Critical Afrofuturist Design Pedagogies. In Proceedings of FabLearn 2019(pp. 156-159).
  • Holbert, N., Dando, M., & Correa, I. (2020). Afrofuturism as critical constructionist design: building futures from the past and present. Learning, Media and Technology, 1-17.
  • Holbert, N., Yoon, H., Brownell, C., Moffett, C., Dando, M., Correa, I., & Vasudevan, L. (2020). The Aesthetics of (Un) Charted Play: Negotiating Nostalgia and Digital Demons in an Era of “Post-Truth” Educational Research.

Interested in listening to Professor Dando?

Check out his podcast here!

If you are interested in hearing Professor Dando’s recent interview regarding his teaching on and research into popular culture and education, please click here.