Category Archives: CCC Blog

This page is a resource for community college teacher-scholars working in the fields of world languages, literatures, and cultures. Here we feature faculty-produced content on community college teaching, pedagogy, scholarship, curriculum development, OERs and more—all in an effort to support our colleagues who endeavor to integrate their commitment to disciplinarity and interdisciplinarity in accordance with the access-oriented, teaching-intensive mission of their institutions.

Recent Scholarship on Community Colleges: M.L.N. Birdwell and Keaton Bayley’s “When the Syllabus Is Ableist: Understanding How Class Policies Fail Disabled Students”

William Christopher Brown, Midland College
1 March 2023

M.L.N. Birdwell and Keaton Bayley’s “When the Syllabus Is Ableist: Understanding How Class Policies Fail Disabled Students” is a 2023 recipient of the Mark Reynolds TETYC Best Article Award (“Awards”). The article argues that many “[g]rading criteria and classroom policies … discriminate against neurodivergent students” because the grades are determined by normative “behavior” that neurodivergent students struggle to replicate (220). Syllabi are often framed as documents that uphold and support diversity, equity, and inclusion; however, these same syllabi often interfere with neurodivergent students’ abilities to succeed in college (221). For instance, students on the autism spectrum disorder “behave, communicate, interact, and learn” in ways that distinguish them “when compared with the neuro-majority” (225; Figure 1). Syllabi often reify ableism by insisting on actions that not all students can perform equally adeptly. Deducting significant points from their final grades does not help neurodivergent students to learn.

Birdwell and Bayley describe common policies designed to police neurotypical misbehaviors that impede the ability of neurodivergent students to learn and succeed. Requiring attendance and punishing absences are standard syllabus features. Birdwell and Bayley observe that this emphasis on presence works against students suffering from depression and anxiety because they have days when they feel “trap[ped] … in the house, or even the bed, on severe days” (227). Rules that enforce “stillness and physical regulation” can also impede neurodivergent students’ grades (230). Birdwell and Bayley note that forcing students to sit still can be difficult for neurodivergent students who “regulate their movement” through activities like “[d]oodling, crocheting, playing with a fidget cube, or phone game” (230). The irony is that these activities that make the student seem like they are not sufficiently regulating their movement actually increase their ability to concentrate (230).

Birdwell and Bayley also critique certain standard classroom activities that can hinder the learning of neurodivergent students. Personal narratives can be problematic for students who have suffered trauma (231). Argumentative essays that focus on “civil rights issues can end with students having to argue their right to existence” (231). Participation and group work can also be significantly challenging for neurodivergent students (231-232).

Birdwell and Bayley are not suggesting that the above standard teaching practices be abolished; rather, they are concerned that the weighting of grades for a course should not cause hardships for neurodivergent students. They recommend that not “more than 10 percent, or a letter grade, rest on factors that disadvantage neurodivergent students” (233). They are concerned that neurodivergent students “shouldn’t fail based on behavior” (234).

The authors include a table that lists “Types of Neurodivergent Conditions” (pp. 225-227). The three-column table consists of “Diagnosis,” “Definition,” and “Classroom effects.” Categories include: autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning disabilities, anxiety, depression, executive dysfunction, time blindness, sensory processing issues, rejection sensitive dysphoria, motor skills issues, and stimming. This comprehensive list is a valuable resource on its own.

Birdwell and Bayley’s article is enormously valuable because it reminds us how neurodivergent students struggle to have an equitable learning experience. I admired its call to bring greater communication, compassion, and empathy to teaching. Accommodation Services are valuable, but the authors would like for faculty to be proactive in meeting all students’ needs rather than reactive to a directive from a legally mandated office on campus. The article is a particularly valuable resource for neurotypical professors that can help them to recognize their own implicit ableist practices or attitudes that hinder the learning and success of their neurodivergent students.

Works Cited

  • “Awards.” National Council of Teachers of English, n.d.,
  • Birdwell, M.L.N. and Keaton Bayley. “When the Syllabus Is Ableist: Understanding How Class Policies Fail Disabled Students.” Teaching English in the Two-Year College, vol. 49, no. 3, 220-237.

Community College Cross-Disciplinary Collaborations: Spanish and Education at Montgomery College

Sharon Ahern Fechter, Montgomery College
1 February 2023

Montgomery College, the largest community college in Maryland, is an active participant in the statewide Associate of Arts in Teaching (A.A.T.) program. With approximately 43,000 credit and non-credit students, three campuses (with a fourth scheduled to open in fall 2023), and two workforce development sites, Montgomery College has been named the most diverse community college in the continental United States. With approximately 26% of the student population identifying as Hispanic, the College was recently designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution.

Collaboration between the School of Education and World Languages discipline at Montgomery College began early on in the establishment of the A.A.T. in Spanish in Maryland, which the Maryland State Department of Education describes as follows:

Maryland’s 16 community colleges all have designated transfer degree pathways that lead to initial Maryland teacher licensure/certification. The Associate of Arts in Teaching (AAT) degree is an articulated transfer pathway into the corresponding undergraduate degree program in teacher education across all Maryland public and private four-year institutions with approved teacher education programs in disciplines in which there was a shortage of qualified teachers in the state: English, chemistry, math, physics, and Spanish.
The A.A.T. degree is intended to fulfill the first two years of a four-year degree program. Per the Code of Maryland Regulation (COMAR) 13B.02.03.24, the AAT degree satisfies all lower- division teacher education program outcomes without further review from the four-year institution and may transfer up to 70 credits forward into any four-year education program into which the student has been admitted. (Maryland’s 2)

A professor of mathematics and a professor of Spanish served on the first statewide groups to craft new secondary A.A.T. programs for Maryland. Once the statewide parameters were set, starting in 2004-2005 they worked closely together to implement the offerings at Montgomery College. These faculty worked together over the years as one moved on to serve as Director of the School of Education and the other became chair of the Department of World Languages and Philosophy and then Dean of Humanities. The association between these departments has continued and developed over time. Now in its 17th year, this relationship continues with others at the helm.

In its early years, the program served 10 to 15 students a year; it has grown to as many as 35 to 40 at its highest point. This current semester enrollment is 27 students. The A.A.T. in Spanish represents a clear path to post-completion success for heritage speakers of Spanish as well as for all students who wish to serve as post-secondary teachers in the state of Maryland and elsewhere.

Spending the first two years at Montgomery College offers students a number of advantages as they prepare for transfer. Community college students benefit from small class size and close relationships with faculty members, as well as a clear pathway to graduation that ensures they will not lose time or money upon transfer (Weisburger 10; Ignash and Slotnick 63). The fieldwork experience, which is part of the degree, provides students a valuable experiential learning opportunity and gives them the chance to experience the career path they have chosen (Ignash and Slotnick 61). Moreover, evening and weekend classes, as well as classes in multiple modalities, ensure that working students and student parents can find classes that meet their needs.

At the same time, challenges exist, both at Montgomery College and upon transfer. Financial hardship, particularly in the pandemic and post-pandemic environment, continues to impact students, who may lack the materials they need to be successful in class. Scheduling, particularly in a time of declining enrollments, also remains a challenge, as working students seek flexibility and fewer sections are offered. This remains true upon transfer, as students seek to fit upper-level courses into an already busy schedule (Weisburger 11).

Valuable opportunities for disciplinary collaboration exist for institutions seeking to enact similar programs. Building and maintaining relationships between faculty from different disciplines is key, both during and after degree design. Ongoing communication between education faculty and faculty in the content discipline to identity co- and extra-curricular opportunities is required to help students to further their professional goals. At Montgomery College, the chapter of the Sociedad Honoraria de la Lengua Española (Spanish honor society), faculty programming Hispanic Heritage Month and International Education Week, and outreach about opportunities and workshops offered by professional societies provide future educators opportunities to explore their chosen field. The degree program benefits the education program and the world languages discipline alike, offering Montgomery College faculty the opportunity to connect with talented students who share their passion for the discipline and will ultimately serve the students of the county and the state.


  • Ignash, Jan M. and Ruth C. Slotnick. “The Specialized Associate’s Degree in Teacher Education. Effective Pathway or Degree Proliferation?” Community College Review, vol. 35, no.1, 2007, 47-65.
  • “Maryland’s Community Colleges Program Directory: Associate of Arts in Teaching (A.A.T.).” Maryland State Department of Education. 2001, Accessed 31 January 2023.
  • Weisburger, Anita T. “The Student Perspective on Maryland’s Associate of Arts in Teaching Degree.” Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education. 2002.

Additional Resources

  • McDonough, Maureen L. “A New Degree for the Community College: The Associate of Arts in Teaching.” New Directions for Community Colleges, no. 121, 2003, 37-45.
  • Perkins, Britine and Cody Arvidson. “The Association Between a Community College’s Teacher Education Program and the 4-year Graduation Rates of Black and Hispanic Teacher Education Students.” Community College Journal of Research and Practice, vol. 41, no. 8, 2017, 507-516.
  • Walker, David A. and Portia M. Downey. “Success by Degrees: Addressing Teacher Shortages through a School-Community College-University Partnership.” Community College Journal of Research and Practice, vol. 32, 2017, 507-516.

(Adapted from a presentation by Sarah Campbell, Sharon Ahern Fechter, and Kayra Alvarado of Montgomery College at the 2023 MLA Convention)

Demystify Teaching Inside Prisons

Nina Knight, Jackson College
2 January 2023

The FAFSA Simplification Act will bring about many exciting changes to higher education for incarcerated people. According to the U.S. Department of Education, this act will eliminate the ban on incarcerated students receiving Federal Pell Grants: “Beginning July 1, 2023, all incarcerated students who are enrolled in eligible prison education programs will once again be eligible for Pell Grants. These changes have the potential to increase access to postsecondary education in prisons and give many of our nation’s incarcerated persons a second chance” (Prison Education Programs Questions Answered). Those who work in Correction Education (CEP) or Prison Education Programs (PEP) are excited to serve our incarcerated students who have struggled with self-pay models and other barriers for years. However, we have found ourselves in a unique position: we need faculty willing to teach inside. This begs the question, have you considered a teaching career inside prison walls?


The rewards of teaching incarcerated students are long-lasting. The impact of a degree on an incarcerated person causes a ripple effect in the lives of the students, the lives of their families, and the communities these students will return to. The Vera Institute of Justice reports:

Ninety-five percent of people in prison eventually return home. With a college degree, they’re better positioned to secure well-paying jobs, find stable housing, and provide for their families. People who participate in college-in-prison programs are also 48 percent less likely to return to prison, which could cut state prison spending across the country by as much as $365.8 million annually. And every dollar invested in prison-based education saves taxpayers four to five dollars from reduced incarceration costs (Brown).

Instructors often do not have the opportunity to see how we affect change in the lives of our students, but teaching inside offers the immediate, real-time rewards of seeing families and communities move toward positive and lasting change. Teaching inside truly makes a difference.


There are many challenges to teaching inside a carceral system, but the two I am asked the most are “Is it safe?” and “Are you scared?” These answers are complicated and complex, as each facility has its unique climate, and state facilities are entirely different from federal facilities. The short answers are yes, it is safe, and no, I am not scared.

When you teach inside, the Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) consider you a community volunteer or a contractor. There are various reasons for this, but the DOC and the BOP go to great lengths to ensure the safety of their community volunteers and contractors. The safety measures vary from each state and increase depending on the facility’s security level. If you are interested in teaching inside, have conversations with those who do this work in your state and ask about the various safety measures in place. In addition, most colleges and universities will begin new instructors at a minimum level, or level 1, facility with an experienced instructor until they feel comfortable moving up.

As a female teaching inside state and federal male facilities, I am often asked if I am scared. At first, the experience of being inside was overwhelming; I saw firsthand what mass incarceration looks like in the United States, and that has only fueled my desire to do this work. It took time and talking with a therapist to process the injustices I saw and to find a balance between my childhood trauma and the type of students I would be dealing with. In time, I found a rhythm in my classes and became relaxed and comfortable. However, I am always aware of my surroundings, I do not go anywhere without an officer, I do not get overconfident, and I do not do favors for anyone. All of this will be covered during your training at your DOC or BOP facility. The benefits of what I do far outweigh any inconvenience or trepidation I might have.

How To Begin

Colleges and universities across the United States need instructors willing to teach inside. To begin this process, know what programs are available in your area. To do this, you can visit the Alliance for Higher Education in Prison and look under the National Directory of Higher Education in Prison Programs. Second, you need to know the language. Terms like felon, prisoner, inmate, offender, and convict are dehumanizing and discriminatory and are words that professionals in our field do not use. As an instructor in a CEP program, you must be committed to person-centered language and be able to see your students as students. Terms like “currently incarcerated person” or a “person with justice involvement” are more widely accepted. See the resources below for a complete list of terms you should know before teaching inside. Third, be adaptable. Many DOC facilities will not allow instructors to have any technology, and students will not have access to technology either. Papers may have to be submitted using a typewriter or pen and pencil. Be ready to adapt your lesson plans to the requirements of the facility. Fourth, familiarize yourself with what Second Chance Pell means for incarcerated students and the changes that will begin in July. Finally, be prepared to have an amazing experience. Your life will be changed as much as your students.


Works Cited

Community College Humanities Association (CCHA) Conference 2022

The Community College Humanities Association (CCHA), founded in 1979, is the only national organization for humanities faculty and administrators in two-year colleges. It is dedicated to strengthening and growing the humanities in two-year colleges as well as creating awareness of the value of humanities education for students, parents, employers, and members of the community. Since humanities study in higher education is not static, CCHA serves as a catalyst for defining and finding progressive solutions to the many fluid and mutable issues that face community college humanities faculty and administrators.

  • The conference will run from Thursday, Oct. 13 to Saturday, Oct. 15
  • All concurrent sessions and keynote addresses (except for the opening keynote) will be held at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Humanities Center
  • The opening night keynote and reception will be held at the Cleveland Marriott East (which is next to the Tri-C campus and has rooms blocked off for conference attendees)
  • Keynote speakers will include
    • Flynn Coleman, international human rights attorney, environmental advocate, Harvard and Yale fellow, and author of A Human Algorithm: How Artificial Intelligence is Redefining Who We Are
    • Jason Hanley, Vice President of Education and Visitor Engagement at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum
    • Ayanna Thompson, Regents Professor of English at Arizona State, Director of the Arizona Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies (ACMRS), and author of number of books, including Blackface (Bloomsbury, 2021), Shakespeare in the Theatre: Peter Sellars (Arden Bloomsbury, 2018), and Passing Strange: Shakespeare, Race, and Contemporary America (Oxford University Press, 2011).
  • The proposal submission due date is April 15

To submit your proposal, follow the link below:

Fellowship opportunity for CC faculty: Mellon/ACLS Community College Faculty Fellowships 2022

Mellon/ACLS Community College Faculty Fellowships

Community colleges are a vital component of the higher education ecosystem and of the academic humanities in particular. Mellon/ACLS Community College Faculty Fellowships support the research ambitions of humanities and social science faculty who teach at two-year institutions, and ACLS invites applications for the third competition of the program this fall. These fellowships are made possible by the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Mellon/ACLS Community College Faculty Fellowships

Producing Knowledge in/of the Local Classroom/Site: Instruction Is Equal to Research 2022

This panel discusses the rigorous intellectual work that goes into post-secondary instruction at colleges/universities. Papers can focus on particular practices/methodologies of faculty who teach in-person, HyFlex, online, and/or real/virtual classroom spaces as research laboratories.

Deadline for submissions: Tuesday, 22 March 2022

William Christopher Brown, Midland C ( )

Advancing the Humanities through Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration 2022

Exploring the challenges and triumphs of cross-disciplinary collaboration between community college humanities faculty and their non-humanities peers. Seeking proposals on course contextualization, infusing the humanities into CLOs, applied learning, and more. 250-word abstracts.

Deadline for submissions: Tuesday, 22 March 2022

Michael Jacobs, Monroe Comm C ( ) Sharon Ahern Fechter, Montgomery C ( )

Technology in the Classroom

Artificial Intelligence impacts all college classrooms, but perhaps none as uniquely as the world language classroom. Rapid advances in technology have led to the development of powerful and relatively accurate translation apps. With such technology, what utility/incentive is there for learning a new language? The CCC requests papers addressing the battle between these new technologies and the humanistic and philosophical benefits of studying a new language.

Follow the link to join the conversation: