Mendocino College Faculty in Focus: Jody Gehrman
Although Professor Jody Gehrman grew up in Healdsburg, California, and spent “a fair amount of time” on the Mendocino Coast, she had never been to Ukiah until her interview for an English position at Mendocino College (MC) ten years ago. She says she was amazed to find it was such a gorgeous place -”so open, free, and beautiful!”
Well-known in the community today as the author of six published novels, Gehrman teaches popular creative writing, and playwriting classes, as well as critical thinking and English composition. “I love seeing what comes out of people's imaginations,” she says. Co-founder, with colleague Reid Edelman, of the MC Festival of New Plays, Gehrman says she is passionate about new plays. An award winning playwright herself, she confesses: “Nothing is as exhilarating as sitting in a theater, watching actors say your words.” Many of her plays have been produced in theaters across the country.
Gehrman attended Santa Rosa JC (SRJC), then transferred to UC Santa Cruz, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in theater arts with an emphasis in playwriting, and a minor in Japanese. “I was an exchange student in Japan during high school,” she explains, “and at the time, I thought my future would be in Japanese translating.” She holds a master's degree in English from Western Washington University, as well as a master's in professional writing from the University of Southern California.
Besides teaching part-time as a graduate student, she worked as a freelance writer to finance her studies. She was a travel writer for the website that became Travelocity, and she was an intern at the San Francisco Review of Books magazine, where she interviewed authors and wrote book reviews. She also wrote for free entertainment magazines, covering dance and arts events. She has worked as a massage therapist at spas in Napa and Sonoma Counties, and as a “very bad” cocktail waitress at a casino in Reno. Before moving to Ukiah, she taught part-time at Cabrillo College.
Although both of her parents taught high school, Gehrman says she was inspired to teach at the community college level by her professors at SRJC, “who were amazing teachers, never surpassed by anyone at the universities I attended.”
She notes that the 9/11 tragedy, “which transformed the country in many ways,” occurred during her first semester at MC. She finds students in her classes ten years later “still struggle to grapple with the reality of that event; some through die-hard patriotism and flag waving, others through pondering why the USA must be so hated abroad.”
Besides students, Gehrman says “autonomy” is the best part of her job; she loves the freedom to be creative with her lesson plans. She also appreciates her colleagues in the English department. “They are fun to hang out with,” she says, “and they are totally dedicated to their students.”
Asked why a successful author would continue a teaching career, Gehrman confesses, “I am a nicer person when I've been teaching. As a writer, it is easy to get completely introverted, but teaching forces me to be extroverted, and less selfish, at least part of the day.”
Gehrman recently married her long-time partner, David Wolf. Their family includes his college-age children, Naomi and Logan, as well as a fat, old cat and a frisky kitten. A “decent windsurfer,” she is learning to surf on a surfboard; however, her greatest pleasure is writing. Gehrman's six published novels are featured on her charming website: www.JodyGehrman.com