UNM-LA student returns as instructor

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Dr. Zandree Stidham’s career has taken her full circle. She took her first college classes at the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos and now she’s an English instructor at UNM-LA. 

After graduating from Los Alamos High School in 1998, Stidham received a scholarship from Los Alamos National Laboratory that allowed her to attend the summer session at UNM-LA.

“Because of my summer experience, I was able to finish an early bachelor of arts in English, in spite of having a baby during my senior year,” Stidham said.

Stidham then pursued her master’s degree at Cal State Bakersfield. She juggled a teaching assistant position with night classes and taking care of a baby.

“I always loved writing,” Stidham said. “I chose to major in English because it was a degree I could pursue while raising my family. My advisor encouraged me to pursue a Ph.D and I commuted from Bakersfield to U.C.-Santa Barbara. I graduated in 2010 with a Ph.D. in education, specializing in language, literacy and composition.”

Stidham did her research on how life in foster care influences the educational outcomes of children.

“I have a passionate interest in the educational struggles of marginalized population,” she said.

Stidham continues to juggle, research, parenting and her teaching responsibilities. She and her husband Tony have four children:  Karina, 15; Griffin, 11; Brayden 9; and Lyla, 4. 

Stidham teaches three classes each semester in composition and in technical writing. She is also the advisor to the student honors organization, PTK. 

The emphasis in composition classes is to give students the writing skills they will need in the working world, Stidham said. 

“We do a lot of genres people will need, such as proposal writing and persuasive writing,” she said.

 “I assign a lot of group projects and the students edit each other’s work and then revise. I encourage students to write about their interests in explanatory essays.” 

Stidham is currently working on a study of UNM-LA’s developmental education students and the forces that impact their academic trajectories, exploring what helped them to succeed and what held them back. 

The research will be presented at the Conference on College Composition and Communication in March.

“I love teaching at the community college level because our students are so diverse in age,” Stidham said. “The students learn from each other and I learn from them.

“Even our most traditional students are often working. Some of them are parents. I encourage them to take it easy and not be in too big a hurry.”

“I love seeing my students grapple with ideas and grow and develop,” Stidham said. 

 “It’s great when I can help students figure out where they are going.”