Honoring Indigenous People’s Day 2020

I’m an SCSU graduate student, a Graduate Assistant, and the English Department blog and social media manager. I am also a 5th and 6th grade English and Social teacher at a local elementary school. 

In honor of Indigenous People’s Day this year (October 12), I took my 5th and 6th graders on a field trip to listen to my dear old 78-year-old friend, Julius, talk about his time doing mission work on the Red Lake Reservation where he spent 20+ years living and working alongside the Indigenous People living on the reservation. 

My students were absolutely fascinated learning about Indigenous Peoples from someone who’s lived and experienced their way of life. It was so much better to hear him speak than to have my students read more out of a textbook. They thoroughly enjoyed learning about the Indigenous Peoples’ way of life! Instead of me sharing my experience, I’d like to share their experiences (in the red text) (and insert clarifications when necessary).

I like that he explained what he did. My favorite artifact was the dream catcher. My favorite part was when he said they came to take him home. The most interesting part was when he talked about the artifacts and how they were made with love. I did not dislike anything.


This student talked about the time when “they came to take him home.” Julius told a story about how years after his time on the Red Lake Reservation, his Indigenous friends invited themselves over to his house one day. When they arrived, they said, “Julius, we’re here to take you home.” They surrounded him and said they weren’t leaving his home without him. Obviously, they were only slightly serious as they knew he had other obligations in his life at that time and he couldn’t go back. The story demonstrated how much the people on the Reservation loved and respected him!

This student also talked about some of the Indigenous artifacts he had on display. He talked about how everything they create is made with love. He also showed many of the gifts these people had gifted him over the years. Everything was absolutely beautiful! 



What I thought was it was very cool. It was very fun to see the paintings he showed to us. The turtle shell was cool. I liked it because there were so many details on the shell. I liked to see the process to see what they did to get it to look that cool. I liked the canoe. It was so cool because you could see all of the details on the canoe. My favorite thing there was the painting that he got from a kid that he drove a bus for. It was so cool to see what he did when he was younger. It was a cool experience.

Part of his mission work was to drive a school bus route for their local school (as you can see in one of the later pictures; he’s wearing his bus driver jacket!). He told many stories about the kindness the students showed him. Many of the students painted or drew him pictures as gifts. Since they didn’t have much, they would give handmade items as gifts.

I think it was cool for the stuff on the table, and I think it was cool that he could speak their language. My favorite thing about it is how good they are at art. My favorite artifact was the pictures. He should put more stuff on the table.


One point Julius stressed was the importance of learning a second language. He can speak fluent Ojibwe, but he suggested my students learn Spanish. 

At one point, Julius recited the “Our Father” prayer in Ojibwe! It was really quite amazing! The written version of the “Our Father” is pictured here.


I loved it. It was so interesting. It was so cool to listen to all he had to say. I didn’t dislike anything. It was so awesome. The most interesting thing was all the pictures and artifacts. My favorite part was listening to everything. My favorite artifact was the birch bark wood canoes. 


Everything was really cool and the paintings were amazing. The language was cool too. And the boats made out of bark and stuff were really cool. The necklaces were cool too. Everything was really cool. But my favorite thing was the turtle shell. It was REALLY cool.





I’ve always honored Indigenous People in my classroom, but this year was way more impactful to my students. 

We’re curious to know:

How do you honor Indigenous People? 

What was your favorite artifact that Julius showed the children? (I know, the pictures aren’t amazing and don’t show everything.)

SCSU Writer’s Club

Hey English Department!

Did you know that SCSU has a writing club??

Check it out here!

Now, joining a club is a big deal, I know! You’re in college. You’re already so busy! But there are so many psychological benefits to write more, so you should definitely consider joining the Writer’s Club!

Check it out!

Writing makes you happier!

I absolutely love this reason to write! In our world today, we can all use a little more happiness. Why not find your happiness through writing for the Writer’s Club?

Writing leads to better thinking and communicating!

I mean, I think this is pretty obvious, but what better way to experiment with enhancing your writing and thinking skills than joining the Writer’s Club?

Writing leads to increased gratitude!

This is another value we need to see more of in our society. Why not help contribute in increasing the world’s gratitude by first increasing yours! Join the Writer’s Club!

Writing leads better learning!

So, you’re here at SCSU for what? To learn!! Why not join a club that will directly help your degree mean more?

There are so many more reasons to write and join the Writer’s Club. Feel free to check out “The Psychological Benefits of Writing” from sparringmind.com for more valuable reasons to write!

Cezarija Abartis

This week, we have the great pleasure to feature:

Cezarija Abartis

In her words:

Some of my favorite classic authors and books:

Homer, Euripides, Jane Austen, Chekhov’s stories and plays, James Joyce’s “The Dead,” Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, Eric Ambler’s A Coffin for Dimitrios, Nabokov’s Lolita, Isaac Babel, Carson McCullers’ “The Ballad of the Sad Cafe,” Isaac Bashevis Singer, Bernard Malamud’s stories. And Shakespeare, always Shakespeare.

Some of my favorite contemporary authors:

I’m going to list titles of books. Jo Ann Beard’s The Boys of My Youth, Lucia Berlin’s A Manual for Cleaning Women, Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, Ellen Currie’s Available Light, Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son, Thom Jones’ The Pugilist at Rest, Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John, Lorrie Moore’s Self Help, Grace Paley’s stories, Martin Cruz Smith’s Arkady Renko novels, Robert Stone’s Dog Soldiers, Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club, Stephanie Vaughn’s Sweet Talk. I will stop now. I expected this compiling to be tedious and effortful, but I find myself smiling as I recall these beautiful books and inspirations.

What I’m most proud of is my book on Shakespeare The Tragicomic Construction of Cymbeline and the Winter’s Tale  (Humanities Press) and my collection of short stories, Nice Girls and Other Stories (New Rivers Press). In a review on NewPages.com, Sima Rabinowitz writes, “These stories are as good the second time through as they are the first. Always, for me, a measure of success.”

Ursula K. Le Guin writes: “Covering the territory between memoir and fiction, these deft and accurate stories hava a rare honesty.”


A few of my hundred flashes published online:

“The Writer,” was chosen by Wigleaf Journal as one of the top 50 online flashes of 2011. Dan Chaon was the selecting editor. http://wigleaf.com/2012top501.htm

“Lost and Found,” New World Writing. Online. June 15, 2020


“Sisters.” matchbook. Online. February 2020


“Medea Imagines” Carmina. Online. December 2, 2019


“Stories for Second-Grade Teachers” Baltimore Review. Summer 2019


“Sleeping Beauty Is Not Well,” Bennington Review. Issue Four. Fall / Winter 2017, pp. 146-147. Also online: http://www.benningtonreview.org/cezarija-abartis

Current research interests:

I certainly value historical, biographical, political criticism, but I also value formal criticism. As a fiction writer, I study the structure of the work itself: character, setting, plot, theme, imagery. I’m interested in the formal characteristics of a work of art–how an author constructs a work to have an effect on our emotions, especially complex layered emotions (the pity and fear that Aristotle famously talked about in tragedy; the nobility and revenge that Euripides dramatizes in his plays).

Thank you so much for reading!!

Donella Westphal’s unexpected yet rewarding journey to owning Jules’ Bistro

If you’re from the St. Cloud area and haven’t been to Jules’ Bistro yet, you are definitely missing out! From breakfast to dinner, coffee to wine, Jules’ Bistro has something for everyone!

Jules’ is owned by Donella Westphal, a 2003 St. Cloud State English Department graduate. If you’re interested in hearing about Donella’s journey to own Jules’, check out this article that so clearly describes her journey.

Located at 921 W St Germain St, St Cloud, MN 56301, the Bistro is just a short jog from campus, just 0.7 miles, to be exact! It’s the perfect stop on a morning run or a great place to begin a night out.




If you’re looking for a different experience, check out Jules’! Here are just a few reasons they are different than the restaurants and cafés you normally frequent:

artisan flatbread pizzas
vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free options
baked-from-scratch cakes, scones and cookies
made-from-scratch soups and chilis
unique daily specials
live music and local art
handcrafted espresso drinks
wines you won’t find at any other St. Cloud restaurant
over 30 craft beers


Jules’ Bistro has a wide selection of delish dishes. According to their website, “Jules’ combines a casually sophisticated menu with a cozy, artistic atmosphere. We believe food crafted thoughtfully is food done right, and take pride in cooking and baking from scratch. Since 2005, we’ve been putting our own spin on pizza, paninis, salads and much more.”



Why not find a restaurant where you can order dinner and enjoy a show? During non-COVID times, Jules’ has a wide variety of artists, musician, comedians, and more come into the bistro to provide (often free) entertainment! Check their website for upcoming events. When COVID settles down and they bring acts back, you won’t want to miss the shows!



One of the greatest aspects of living in and around the St. Cloud area is the local support businesses have for each other. Jules’ Bistro is no exception. They currently give back to nine local organizations: Anna Marie’s Alliance, Pathways 4 Youth, Operation Baby New Year Diaper Drive, St. Cloud State University Athletic Department, St. Cloud Shines, MN Dance Ensemble, St. Cloud Area Singing Saints Barbershop Chorus, Tri-County Human Society, and Girl Scouts Lakes & Pines. Help support these local organizations by supporting Jules’.



Beyond supporting the specific organizations mentioned above, Jules’ works hard to locally source as much as they can. Jules’ espresso and coffee beans come from a small roaster in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Dogwood Coffee Company, they source their pure maple syrup from a small company in Mora, Minnesota, Sapsucker Farms, their honey comes from Ames Farm, raw honey made in Minnesota, and they even support central Minnesota garbage company, West Central Sanitation, for all their garbage removal needs! Check out their “Partners” page for more information about other companies they support. I love supporting local and I feel like I’m doing so by supporting Jules’.



Did you know that Jules’ caters events? Need I say more?


If you’re still not sold on Jules’, check out Jules’ in the News where you’ll find a variety of articles and other places Jules’ has been featured.

Their food is delicious. Their service is amazing. Their team is very friendly! It’s the perfect place for you to sit down for a cup of coffee and a scone!

Calling all English Department faculty, students, and alumni!!

Did you know that you can be featured on our blog page??

We absolutely love featuring our current students, faculty, and alumni!


  1. Have you recently been published? Let us know the details and we’ll put together a post. We’d also love to publish a post you wrote.
  2. Are you teaching a really compelling course? (The answer should be “yes” because ALL of you are teaching really compelling courses.) Write something about the course and send it our way. We love to read about what’s happening within the walls of Webster!
  3. Got a fun story to share? Please share it!! This can be about anything. Exciting happenings in your class. Fun summer getaways. A funny story your niece told you the other day. We love to get to know our professors and would love to have you share your stories!


  1. Have you written a really interesting paper recently? Send it to us! We’d love to publish it on the blog! We really enjoy seeing what students are doing within our classrooms!
  2. Do you have any fun side projects happening? We’d love to hear about it! We like featuring students’ projects because we like showcasing our amazing English Department talent!
  3. Are you writing a thesis or working a culminating project? Featuring something like this on our blog is beneficial because it may give inspiration to future students as they begin to think about their own culminating projects.


  1. Are you published (or soon to be published)? Send us a link and short write-up about your pieces and we’ll link your work to our blog. We know we have some amazing alumni and your work deserves to be featured!
  2. How about a story from when you were attending SCSU? We quite like taking trips down memory lane! Please feel free to share your stories with the blog!
  3. What are you up to these days? We feel very connected to all of our alumni and would greatly appreciate to hear how you are doing, what you are doing, and how the English Department helped prepare you for your current adventures.

Do you have other ideas for submissions? Please, send them our way! If we haven’t said it before, we love featuring faculty, students, and alumni!! Please consider writing something for the blog!

Webster during COVID-19

Ok friends. Let’s address the elephant in the room. And by “elephant,” I mean “COVID-19.”

Everyone knows about it. Everyone’s talking about it. But, I haven’t seen anyone talk about how different campus looks right now.

I walked around Webster Hall, our home, on Tuesday before teaching my class. It was about 1:30 PM.

Before I drop the photos I took, I want you to remember what Webster was like back before COVID. I remember walking through the halls, hearing a multitude of voices and seeing students studying in the comfy chairs on every floor. I remember the English department (and other departments as well) office doors open, the office full of smiling faces ready to greet anyone who walked in! I remember seeing full classrooms of students learning. I remember an alive and active building.

I’ll admit. I was very saddened by my walk through Webster. I felt like I was alone. I didn’t get to greet anyone. No smiles. No “How are you?” No interaction. Just me and my thoughts.





Walking around Webster was a sad experience. When I finished my walk, I went to my classroom to get set up for class. Some students come in-person and the rest join on Zoom. It’s far less than an ideal situation, but at least they get a little bit of in-person instruction. When I’ve asked which method the students prefer, the say in-person. I had five students in my classroom on Tuesday. The rest were on Zoom.

Drop us a comment to let us know which method you prefer!

I hope eventually we can go back to fully in-person classes, but until then, we’re doing the best we can and I’m confident all the professors teaching here are continuing to provide high quality instruction!

Take care and be safe!


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.