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 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.
Name: Meghan Tebow
Hometown: Fredricksburg, Virginia
Major: ODAL and Journalism
Meghan transferred to SNC to obtain her bachelor’s degree after serving in the military for three years as a weather forecaster and working in national parks across the country. She moved to the Tahoe area this August, a week prior to school starting, with her 3-year-old daughter, Karolien Rose Tebow.
So you are 25 and you have already spent time in the military?
I was 20 when I joined. I had been traveling a lot, and kind of joined the military to settle down.
Wow, I don’t think most people think of the military when they think of “settling down.”
Well, I had been traveling for two years. I worked in odd jobs all over the U.S. I worked in an outdoor store in Maine. I went to Wyoming and worked in a lodge there. I was a flight attendant for a brief time. I had odd jobs pretty much all over the U.S. I’ve been to almost every state and lived in almost 10 states. Then I joined the military.
So you join the Air Force and you get stationed in Hawaii. Are you always this lucky?
Well it was a low chance. The highest GPA’s had priority, and they gave us a list to pick from, and Hawaii and Germany were on the list. I was in a place, where I was ready to go hang on an island for three years.
How was life in the military?
In the military you have a really involved job. You’re doing meetings and PT and as a weather forecaster I was on the clock a lot. We would work 12 hour night shifts. Basically, I worked every holiday, but I did get long breaks. I would get like three or four days off so I did get to go hang on the beach and enjoy Hawaii.
How does one become a weather forecaster in the Air Force?
When you first enlist, they sort through whatever jobs they have available. I was going to be a linguist. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a top secret clearance because of a misdemeanor when I was a teenager. The next option they had was weather. So I was like, ok, I’ll do weather.
So the military trained you to forecast the weather?
Yeah. They sent me to Air Force college to get weather training and I went to Hawaii Pacific University to get some of my core classes done.
Hart Heffelfinger, a new student at SNC, has just come to Lake Tahoe from Vashon Island
Name: Hart Heffelfinger
Hometown: Vashon Island, WA
Where is Vashon Island?
Vashon is an island off of Seattle that you can only get to by ferry, and I’ve lived there my whole life. The island is a hippy retirement place. It is where K2 was started and there was big industry for that, but K2 moved off the island 10 years ago and ever since it’s been farmer’s markets and rich Microsoft people.
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.
Late at night, while most students are fast asleep, Tyler Prange is working hard at Diamond Peak to ensure that each run is perfectly groomed. A Ski Business and Resort Management major by day and Diamond Peak vampire by night, Prange is setting himself up for a career in the ski business.