It’s the first day of freshman English class and the students are sitting there anxiously. In walks a tall, gangly, man with a thin brown mustache and horn rimmed eyeglasses. He carries a boom box. The man calmly places the boom box down and begins to play Bob Dylan.
The class begins to chuckle but remains attentive. This man happens to be Jonathan Rounds, Adjunct Associate Professor of English, and this is one technique Rounds uses to connect with students and help them relate poetry to lyrical song.
“Students are very literate in music and film and if you can meet them where they strive, it tends to work out beautifully,” Rounds said.
Rounds graduated from Penn State University with a BA and MA in Humanities. At Penn State, Rounds was influenced by literary journalists Tom Wolfe and Norman Mailer. Shortly after college, he got married and now has two children.
Later, he worked as a freelance writer for magazines in Pennsylvania, taking whatever job he could get as long as he had a chance to write. It was hard to make a living, though, so he buckled down and became a reporter at a small paper in Hershey, Pa. It was at this paper that he learned about deadlines and how to find a story.
Rounds also began teaching English on the side at a community college in Pennsylvania as a way to help pay the bills. He loved it immediately. “Teaching is the most gratifying thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “Journalism can be meaningful if you get the right stories and publication. But teaching is always rewarding.”
Rounds believes that all students have the potential for brilliance. “A student came to me and was struggling,” he said. “The student had a lot of potential but not a whole lot of skill. He finished the course with a C+ and I thought that was it. About five years later, I received an e-mail saying that that student had published his first novel.”
Growing up, Rounds was uncertain about his future but one of his English teachers, Ms. Harrison, whom Rounds remembers as a “complete monster,” inspired him. He believes her challenging style propelled him to success.
Brittany Borchard, a sophomore sociology major, remembers Rounds as a teacher who “takes time to get to know his students personally and involve them in class, ensuring that they learn everything they can.”
Rounds said that teaching and journalism are a perfect marriage of discourses.
“The real common interest between journalism and teaching is the interaction with the people,” he said. “People make it work. If you like people, you can do both. I’ll teach as long as they’ll have me.”