Mendocino College Faculty in Focus: Bart Rawlinson
When Associate Professor of English Bart Rawlinson graduated with a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University in 2003, he sent a resume' to Mendocino College (MC). He was delighted to receive a call from Professor Jody Gehrman inviting him to teach part-time. He started immediately, and taught the maximum number of English classes possible for a part-time employee, until he was hired full-time in 2009.
Rawlinson's soft accent gives a hint that he grew up in the Southwest. He is from Hardin, Texas, a town of 698 people, where his parents still live. He attended Baylor University in Waco, Texas, for three years, then transferred to SFSU, where he completed BA and MFA degrees. He started his teaching career as a creative writing instructor at SFSU while he was still an undergraduate.
Prior to his academic studies, Rawlinson worked in business. He started at age 12 by helping out at his Dad's meat market and slaughterhouse. As an adult, he managed a real estate office in Dallas, Texas. He also managed the banking and brokerage program for a subsidiary of Transamerica Corporation in San Francisco. Both jobs required training salespeople and creating seminars. "It seems like I was always teaching, even then," he says.
Rawlinson says the best part of his job at MC is getting to know his students. "I love hearing their stories," he says. "My students come from a wide variety of backgrounds," he continues, "and the more they talk about their lives, the more they relax on some level, so they are able to take in more information."
He says the most challenging part of his job is grading essays. "It is tricky to tell students how they can improve their essays in a way they can hear," he says. He tries to do this by writing a personal note about each essay to every student - a monumental task he admits, but one which often succeeds.
Rawlinson describes his teaching style as interactive. "I give a quiz on the assigned readings at the beginning of each class period," he says, "because when everyone knows what we are talking about, the level of engagement for the whole class goes way up."
He says he would advise prospective teachers at any level to "be sure you really care about what you are teaching. Students are aware of their teacher's level of enthusiasm," he says, "and if you have grown bored with your subject, they know."
Besides teaching, Rawlinson is passionate about books. "I have been a bookworm my entire life," he says. "My mother started taking me to the library when I was 3, and I still go to the library every week. Reading is like breathing to me; I have to read," he says.
When he is not teaching or reading, Rawlinson enjoys writing. He is the recipient of the Joseph Henry Jackson Literary Award, the Eugene Ruggles Poetry Prize, the Robert Browning Prize for Dramatic Monologue, and other awards.
He and his partner, Bill Boucher, preserve and can food from their garden, and they raise chickens. They also enjoy traveling to exotic places. They went to Southeast Asia in January, 2011, where they visited Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. They visited Mexico for a week in April, 2011.
Rawlinson also enjoys helping to select plays for the annual MC Festival of New Plays, and has been a featured poet at the Sonoma County Book Festival in Santa Rosa.