Anne Laskaya

English | 541-346-1517

Courses: General Ed courses in ENG; Medieval literature & culture courses in ENG and HUM 

In my classes you will:

  • Practice foundational, transferable skills.
  • Explore new perspectives.

I was invited into the Teaching Academy because:

  • I am an Ersted Award Recipient.

In what ways are you working to make your teaching inclusive?

Most of the courses I teach invite students to explore Medieval culture and literature. The Middle Ages were a far more multicultural, multilinguistic and multi-ethnic world than we might often imagine; communities or people wove themselves together from significant differences into what we think of as 'Medieval Europe.'

In my courses, along with the typical focus on aesthetics, ethics, and deep understanding that literature courses offer, students explore the multicultural features of late Medieval visual and literary texts. Influences from the Middle East, Northern Africa, and what were then significant differences between European groups can be seen as layers that underlie what we think of more monolithically now as European culture.

Becoming aware of historical difference, as well as ways humans have always negotiated and learned from difference (sometimes with violent consequences and other times with productive exchange) can deepen our understanding of our global community. The European Middle Ages also faced environmental disasters, Plague, and wars that threatened to annihilate communities and the bonds of family, social groups, and economic order.

Examining ways individuals and groups handled these challenges in the past (for better or worse) offers us thoughtful opportunities to consider how we, in our time, can try to find ethical ways of understanding and addressing our own environmental, social, and economic challenges. Students in my classes are invited to consider whether or not pre-industrial societies have any warnings and any wisdom to offer us? Students are also encouraged to make connections with, and see major historical differences between, Medieval literature and culture and the socio-economic dynamics we see in our world today.

What do you do in terms of professional engagement with the teaching and learning culture on campus or nationally?

I have attended many teaching workshops, lectures, and conversations over the years I've been teaching at the UO. These have been both departmental and university-wide events. I've served on curriculum committees, committees developing new courses and programs, and on the UO's Undergraduate Council. My department has long had a culture of encouraging colleagues to learn from one another's teaching, including reading groups focused on pedagogy, informal and formal classroom observations, and discipline-specific teacher-training programs, some of which I have directed.

In what ways was your teaching in this course research-led—informed by research on how students learn and inflected by UO's research mission?

My teaching practice is informed and influenced by several things: reading scholarship on teaching and learning; understanding that the classroom, itself, is a space of pedagogical research, where teachers learn from each unique group of students and from the experience of teaching many courses over time; and learning from other teachers who are also constantly gaining insights from their teaching practices in their classrooms. All my classes have clear, articulated goals, include small-group discussions and activities, and invite students to participate in problem-solving activities. My literature and culture courses typically invite students into close reading, analysis, and discussion; students form preliminary responses to material (readings or discussions) and then reconsider and possibly revise responses. Both informal and formal written assignments, as well as discussion are important components of my classes.

Why teach?

I never want to stop learning, and teaching is an active, ongoing process of learning. I'm curious about history, the past, how it informs (and perhaps sometimes inhibits) the present; I'm curious about why humans produce art and literature; I'm curious about what other people think. All of these are questions I can explore as a Professor. I learn from my students; I learn from colleagues; and I learn from research. Teaching is a social act, and I enjoy offering students courses where they can interact with challenging material and challenging questions, with one another, and with me as they learn. Teaching is also a way I hope to help students realize their own dreams and invite students into the world of inquiry and thoughtfulness that universities—at their best—offer.