Faculty & Staff Spotlights
Christian T. Avis
Assistant Professor of English
Education: SUNY Oswego, B.A. English/Writing Arts; M.A. English Literature
Professional Affiliations: NYSUT, LiFT
What is something unique or important for people to know about your program?
If your strength is in the humanities, and you have a passion for it, you can be employed and successful. Despite the naysayers, you’re not trying to get a job for everyone, just yourself. Work on your writing, work on your art and treat it like a job.
What inspired you to become an educator?
Great professors and my mentors showed me how to love this job.
What interests you most about the subject area in which you teach?
I love being able to connect literature from a book to what students naturally watch or listen to on their own. By helping them see the similarities, I can help them appreciate the stories, poems and plays I assign. As well, I let them know that what they already like is valuable and in a similar tradition.
What do you find most challenging about teaching and why?
People need to be willing to read, and read fiction when they do. It’s the best way to gain wisdom without the risk of personal loss, because if you can identify with the plight of a protagonist, you can learn something about the way the world works.
What do you find most rewarding about teaching and why?
When students get excited in the classroom for the material and the scholarly environment, I connect with them. I remember feeling connected to others in college who shared my interests in writing. I thought, “Finally! My people!” When students feel this way, I’m excited and happy for them.
What teaching moment is most memorable?
My very first day of teaching, I was determined to start my career with a bang. I remembered something a professor of mine had done in playwriting class, and borrowed it: I came in wearing fake glasses, a shirt buttoned wrong, and my hair messed-up. I proceeded to stutter a greeting and drop a pile of books all over the floor. Then I pulled off the glasses, fixed my shirt and told them to write down everything they had just observed in as much detail as they could. We all got a laugh out of it when they realized I wasn’t actually a (total) clod.
What do you think makes the educational experience at Herkimer unique?
The faculty here want to teach, and do so. When students succeed, we are excited for them.
What attracted you to Herkimer College?
Herkimer College is a place where you can know your students and see them later in life, whether that’s in the community we live in or on social media.
What do you enjoy most about teaching at Herkimer College?
I like when I can be more than the instructor in the room, when I can sit down to talk to students, and really help mentor them. Students have fascinating journeys with us and away from us, and listening to what they have to say has been enriching.
What do students need to know in order to succeed in college?
Show up. Show up on time. Do your work. Do your work outside of class. Find a mentor. Make friends who share your interests. Throw off the stigma we too often see in grade school about being smart. Answer questions. Ask questions.
What new courses do you hope to teach in the future?
We’re launching an advance composition class in the spring. I should be teaching it next fall. I hope to get my Video Game Theory class going again. I’m really enjoying teaching my revamped College Writing class. Mythology and Science Fiction & Fantasy are particularly rewarding, as I get to share my expertise as a published Fantasy writer.
What are your hobbies or interests outside of work?
I’ve written three novels, though I wouldn’t call that a hobby, exactly: Ironedge, Upshot, and Wizard’s Shield (forthcoming). I fiddle around with an older car I have (but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I’m mechanically inclined). I act and voice act for the Little Falls Theater Company (LiFT). I play table top and video games. I’m an assistant coach for Little League baseball. I like weight lifting and boxing. I target shoot.