This post is written by NCTE member, Paul LaPrade.
I met Dr. Kate Mangelsdorf when I was hired as an undergraduate writing tutor at the University of Texas at El Paso’s Writing Center, which she directed at the time. As a junior making sense of the university and my new place within it, I felt her title and corner office conveyed an aura of authority not unlike that of the Iron Throne of Westeros. Yet I would soon find out how approachable and engaging Kate is, and before long I had the opportunity to witness her talent and dedication as a teacher and to work with her on my Masters practicum.
Seven years after meeting her, I’m working as a lecturer in the English Department, my office just a couple of doors down from Kate’s. In reflecting on one of this month’s themes, it is remarkable the impact a serendipitous encounter with an inspirational educator has had in making me a teacher.
Throughout her career, Dr. Mangelsdorf has developed a reputation as an eloquent advocate for honoring and exploring students’ lived multilingual experiences. By pointing to the tension between idealized monolingual standards and the diverse linguistic negotiations students engage in despite them, she has argued compellingly for a 21st-century approach to students and their languages. I have also seen her give voice to students’ complex linguistic needs and skills on a smaller scale, in my first-year composition classes, where her work (particularly an article on Spanglish) has spurred lively discussion and debate, even finding its way into students’ papers as they examine the unique yet increasingly prescient linguistic context they inhabit on the U.S.-Mexico border.
As Dr. Mangelsdorf steps away from directing two of our department’s programs—Rhetoric and Writing Studies and English Education—I realize how much her influence in my life mirrors the imprint she has left on an entire department, one she will fortunately continue to be very much a part of.
The Chair of that department, Dr. Maggy Smith, recently reflected that “Kate is an insightful and inspirational leader for two of the department’s programs. She is a mentor to countless students and faculty members both in the department and across campus, and a good friend to all.”
It is with this in mind, and on behalf of many others, that I would like to add Dr. Mangelsdorf to this month’s catalog of inspirational teachers, and to say thank you por sus esfuerzos para reconocer el multilingüismo de nuestros estudiantes y como resultado, la posibilidad de expresar mi gratitud en español en este espacio y en el salón de clases. Gracias, Dra. Mangelsdorf, muchas gracias.
Paul LaPrade is a lecturer in the Rhetoric and Writing Studies Undergraduate Program at the University of Texas at El Paso.