Associate Professor of English
Norris Hall 105G
Dr. Jonathan Sircy, recipient of the 2017 Excellence in Teaching Award, joined the faculty at Charleston Southern in August 2011. An Associate Professor in the Department of English, Dr. Sircy earned a BA in English Literature/Creative Writing from Murray State University, an MA from the University of Kentucky, and a PhD, with a Specialization in English Renaissance Literature, from the University of South Carolina. Dr. Sircy calls CSU his “first gig” – he defended his dissertation five days after accepting the position at Charleston Southern, where he was offered the opportunity to “share his faith with students while teaching them the literature I love.”
In his courses, Dr. Sircy tries to help students see the connections between discipleship and education and how the practices of reading and writing are important ways of loving one’s neighbors. In order to help students see the spiritual basis for education, Dr. Sircy hands out a daily worksheet—a kind of order of worship—for every class meeting. “It’s my way of being transparent,” he says. “They know what they’ll be doing when they come to class. And it’s like a church bulletin they can take notes on.” He adds, “It even contains a quotation we stand and recite together at the beginning of class and gives a time of benediction for us to rise together just before class ends!” He also models writing and reading by completing the assignments he gives and by listening to his students’ work as he assesses it. “I discovered as a graduate student that my attention is best when I can listen to the words I’m reading,” he explains. “Since then, I’ve used a text-to-speech computer program that can read my students’ work to me. This means, I actually listen to every word my students write.”
When asked who has most influenced his teaching, Dr. Sircy mentions his dissertation director, Dr. David Lee Miller, whom he describes as, “a powerful scholar, a gifted lecturer, an adept discussion leader, an innovative pedagogue, and an attentive assessor of student work.” Dr. Miller was obviously a very successful mentor. Dr. Miller actually introduced Dr. Sircy to his favorite teaching assignment: a trial his Shakespeare Survey students hold every year in order to determine Othello’s guilt for the death of Desdemona. “I’m not a theater director, so this is as close as I get to a class performance,” Dr. Sircy says. “But what’s great about it is it’s actually an embodied research paper that never has a script. The play stays the same, but I’ve never had two classes handle the trial in the same way.” Students take roles as prosecutors, defense attorneys, characters from the play, jury members, and even media reporters covering the trial. “When it works,” Dr. Sircy says, “you see how compelling and complex the play is even as it becomes real for students in a brand new way. My student who played Othello two years ago said it took him a day or two to get out of character but that it was one of the best education experiences he’d ever had.”
Dr. Sircy’s impact is felt outside the classroom as well. He shares his technological expertise with fellow faculty members through his service on the Apple Technology Team, and he chairs the Publications Committee, which hosts an annual symposium for the sharing of student and faculty research. His activities outside the classroom intersect with his teaching. He helps lead Bible studies each week at Bethany United Methodist Church and at the Summerville men’s homeless shelter. Dr. Sircy’s wife, Dr. Britt Terry, teaches English at Southern Wesleyan University, and they have a two-year-old daughter, Catherine Alex. “People ask me all the time if being a father changed me,” Dr. Sircy says. “It didn’t. I guess I’ve felt like a dad for awhile, and maybe that’s because of the way I’ve learned to work with and care for my students.”
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