In Gayle Brandeis’ classroom, the students read aloud stories from their lives that they have just put onto paper. Brandeis smiles warmly and adds supportive commentary after every piece. Writing has been at the center of her life since she discovered poetry at four years old.
“I was always writing as a kid, just poems and stories. I put together a little neighborhood newspaper. I was a shy girl, but I would go door to door and interview my neighbors,” Brandeis said.
A visiting professor at SNC this year, Brandeis is from Riverside, California, where she has held the title of local literary laureate for the past two years. With three published novels and a collection of poems, she has established a name for herself in the literary community.
Brandeis fondly remembers being invited to teach at the school by English Department Chair June Saraceno last spring. “It was just such a beautiful, generous, unexpected offer. I have had fantasies about living in the mountains for the last two years,” she said.
Brandeis and her family relocated to the Lake Tahoe area last month, and she says they are enjoying the small town atmosphere and beautiful locale. Although she has lived in California since the 1990’s, Brandeis was born just north of Chicago in the suburb of Evanston. She spent much of her childhood writing, and at 18-years-old she was selected to be one of six writers whose work was placed into a time capsule at New York’s centennial celebration for the Statue of Liberty.
“It was an essay on the meaning of liberty, and I wrote it about how our imaginations are what makes us free. Even if we are in jail, our imaginations can go anywhere,” Brandeis said.
Brandeis now has three published novels and a collection of poems in print. Recently she has also experimented with electronic publishing.
“Being published by a traditional publisher is great, but traditional publishers aren’t doing so well,” she said. “ There are so many options available to writers now in terms of bringing our work out into the world. It’s become much more democratic and accessible.”
By Calhoun Boone
Bruce Meierdiercks, head coach of the SNC men’s lacrosse team, has dedicated a solid portion of his life to coaching and promoting the sport of lacrosse. However, lacrosse has not always been his favorite sport.
“I started out as a basketball star in high school. I could dunk at my height, and somehow I’ve found myself coaching lacrosse for the past 42 years,” Meierdiercks said.
Meierdiercks didn’t play lacrosse until his junior year of high school. He grew up on Long Island,New York and attended El Mont High School where he played basketball for his coach, Richie Moran. Moran went on to become a famous lacrosse coach at Cornell University. In Meierdiercks’ junior year, Moran started a lacrosse program at El Mont High School. Meierdiercks says he was blackmailed into joining the team.
“He told me I was never going to play at the next level in basketball due to my size. When he asked me to join the lacrosse team I said I didn’t want to. He told me if I didn’t play, he was going to bench me for my entire senior year of basketball season,” Meierdiercks said.
Meierdiercks joined the lacrosse team, quickly becoming a star defensive player. After high school, he went on to play Division One lacrosse at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York. At Adelphi, he became the team captain and was named All American as well as most valuable player.
After college, Meierdiercks moved with his wife to the Virgin Islands where he began coaching and teaching. After two years, he and his wife moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where he started the Tamalpais lacrosse program in Marin County and coached at Santa Clara University. He stayed in the Bay Area for 20 years until he was contacted by SNC about starting a new college lacrosse program.
“I was burned out and ready to retire. I had had enough of coaching, but when the school got in touch with me about starting a program I got excited about lacrosse again,” Meierdiercks said.
Last spring, the SNC lacrosse team went undefeated in its inaugural season as with Meierdiercks as coach. Looking back on his entire lacrosse career, Meierdiercks says his best memory has been “going 7 and 0 with a brand new program last year with Sierra Nevada College.”
BY Natalie Clark Postles
Katie Zanto, mother, wife and the chair of Interdisciplinary Studies at Sierra Nevada College joined the faculty in the winter of 2004, and is currently at the end of her 10th year here at SNC. Zanto, while currently the chair of Interdisciplinary Studies, was originally hired to teach a few freshman English composition classes.
According to Zanto, as each semester progresses more opportunities open up for her at the school. Before she taught at SNC she taught English at multiple schools, including both middle and high schools. Zanto also worked as a guide and outdoor facilitator through Outward Bound for more than 10 years.
“You literally watch the students change from no confidence, not knowing how to make a decision and awkward, to so ready and confident to apply their new selves to the world.” Zanto says referring to time working with Outward Bound. Zanto says teaching in an academic setting was not her initial intention. While working for Outward Bound she initially saw herself as a guide or an outdoor facilitator and not a teacher, but it was her time working there that made her into one.
Zanto reflects that her real passion was to “integrate the power of outdoor education with literacy instruction”. She wanted to integrate the teaching of reading, writing and speaking with second language learners that were struggling with the power of outdoor education.
To do so, she went back to graduate school at Stanford, researched her interest of starting a nonprofit directed towards teaching underserved youth by integrating in-class education and the outdoors, and found out if anyone was facilitating the same sort of program.
Stacy Taylor is a popular professor with Sierra Nevada College students because of her unique way of teaching economics. She thinks that the best way to teach is to give students the chance to problem solve and have a hands-on approach.
“The way Professor Taylor introduced economics into my college experience really showed me how interesting and exciting economics can be, ” Senior Austin Leal said.
For many students, Economics 101 and 102, or macro- and micro-economics, are the first stepping-stones towards a degree in economics, so it’s important for the professor to introduce the new undergraduates in a positive manner.
“I like being the first contact that students have with economics. I like to make it positive for them,” Taylor said. ”If you are having a great time students will probably come along with you.”
Taylor started teaching at SNC in the fall of 2012. Before then, she had a successful career in banking.“I loved banking and I was very successful at it. I used to start and run big businesses.” Taylor said.
During the financial crisis, she decided to make a change in her career. Taylor was working in the mortgage business, which began to show signs of collapse.
“I decided I didn’t want to be a part of that. I left and moved into my ski house here in Tahoe.” Taylor said.
The upstairs art studio has a unique, pungent smell today. The aroma of peppers and onions being pulverized overpowers the nostrils. In the back of the printmaking studio, Mary Kenny is whipping up a batch of chili. A few students work on projects, create artwork, and classes are in session. This place of organized chaos is home base for Kenny here at Sierra Nevada College, which might explain why she is cooking.
“This started with Laura Bennett, who started bringing fresh vegetables from her garden in Auburn. I looked at them and I just thought of chili. I make chili for finals sometimes,” Kenny said.
Kenny has been teaching art at SNC for 12 years. Her bubbly personality and laidback attitude make it easy for students to get along with her. Before her time at SNC, Kenny lived in Ohio for 22 years. She was born, raised and completed her undergraduate degree there. After graduation she moved to Eugene, Oregon for six months, but following a visit to Lake Tahoe, she returned to Eugene and immediately put in her two-week notice.
“I have kind of been here since. I was a nanny in Eugene but knew I wanted to get my masters degree. I started looking around for where I could do that in California. It is so expensive to live here. I tried to figure out how to afford to live in San Francisco and get my master’s at the same time, ” Kenny said.
That ended up being too large of a time commitment for Kenny. She attempted to work as a nanny while going to school in San Francisco, but she didn’t have enough time for studying and work. She ended up moving back to Ohio to complete her master’s degree.
“I basically lived in my studio. It didn’t really matter where I lived because I spent most of my time there,” Kenny said.
After graduate school, Kenny signed up for a summer printmaking workshop that was being held here at SNC. During the workshop, she learned that the printmaking teacher was retiring. That left a perfect opening for her and she became a permanent Tahoe resident.
“I have my master’s in printmaking. We have all this equipment here, the presses and everything else, I understand how to use it,” Kenny said. “My work has a lot to do with paper. I love paper. I love folding it.”
You enter and hear nothing but silence.In this dimly lit space, students gather and study. It’s a calming atmosphere of tranquility.Here and there among the library’s stacks, students grab books.
Often they’re greeted by SNC librarian Betts Markle. It’s a name that rings in everyone’s ear, from students to faculty members.
“I come from a long line of Elizabeths,” Markle said. “There has been Elizabeth, Beth, Betty, and Betsey. My parents didn’t want another Betsey, so they named me Betts.”
She never liked being called Betsey anyway as it was the name of an old childhood doll.
Markle has been working in libraries for more than 30 years. She is also a professor at SNC, teaching business and marketing classes this semester. She is also a writing instructor for graduate students, but she has never been interested in teaching English. “I don’t like teaching literature too much, but I could,” said Markle.
Whether she is traveling from building to building at Sierra Nevada College or traveling overseas to Afghanistan or South Africa, Mary Lewellen makes a mark everywhere she goes. As an associate professor of International Studies, Lewellen uses her experience and knowledge to encourage students at SNC to make the world a better place.
It’s 7 a.m. at the top of Diamond Peak Ski Resort and the sun is up, but its warmth has not come. The thermometer reads zero degrees, and a 15 mph wind chill bites through Gortex jackets like an Arctic alligator.
The Sierra Nevada College alpine ski team is holding practice, and Assistant Athletic Director Jon Cherry is right there with them. Skiing has been a part of Cherry’s life since he was a kid.