English Program Bridges Gap Between High School, College

El Vaquero Staff Writer

With the coming of the new semester in the spring, the English Department will welcome the addition of two new instructors to its team.

Francien Rohrbacher and Mary Shannon, recently hired, are to begin teaching English 120 next spring for the English Collaborative Program.

The program connects high school teachers and community college professors in an effort to improve high school seniors’ transition into college.

Both Rohrbacher and Shannon have similar educational backgrounds. Though Rohrbacher is currently teaching freshman composition and writing for engineers at UCSB and Shannon currently teaches freshman composition at CSUN (along with developmental writing and developmental reading); she and Shannon both received their M.A. degrees in English at CSUN.

English Division Chair David White, Program Manager for Economic Development Jan Swinton, and Title V Director Sue Brinkmeyer made up the interview committee that was in charge of interviewing applicants for the position.

They are very enthusiastic about what the two have to offer the program.

“We were very impressed with these two,” White said of the coordinators.

While Shannon brought to the program first-hand experience with students that are under-skilled in college English, Rohrbacher brought administrative skills, said Brinkmeyer. “The two compliment each other very nicely,” she said.

Shannon expressed her enthusiasm for the program. “It’s a wonderful program, it really is,” she said. “I’m really excited to be a part of it.”

The English Collaborative Program is an extension of the old Bridge Program that was implemented in 2000 by its founder, Mary Jane Atkins. She began the program following the test results of high school seniors.

In the fall of 1998, 73.1 percent of high school seniors who were entering college placed below freshman composition on the placement exam. After two years in development, the Bridge Program opened up with Burroughs, Burbank, Hoover and Glendale high schools.

The program built a relationship between community colleges and high school teachers. GCC professors met with high school teachers to clarify post-secondary school standards to make sure that they are being met by the senior English class in high school.

However, Atkins, the English instructor, resigned at the end of last year and the new coordinators were hired to replace her position together.
The Collaborative Program also involves bridges in not only English, but also math and ESL as well. “We all work together for the students,” Brinkmeyer said.

Both teachers agree the students are not to blame. “…it’s just that writing is a hard thing to do. It’s a hard thing to teach and it’s a hard thing to learn,” said Rohrbacher.

The program does not simply work to give students in high school the curriculum skills needed for their freshman year of college, but also the attitudes that students need to have in order to succeed in their education beyond high school, Brinkmeyer said.