This is one of an occasional series in which majors read and report on recent academic work by professors in ETFL. Doing so allows students to explore professional opportunities and possibilities, as well as gain a better understanding of the work their professors do outside of the classroom.
Dr. Michael Berntsen is an Assistant Professor here at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. During graduate school he attended a Blues class that initiated a unique pedagogical strategy that he would utilize in his future classrooms. Through this class and his love for the blues he realized a connection between the themes in the music and the themes presented in many of Shakespeare’s works. This led him to develop a paper, “Using Blues Music to Teach Shakespeare,” that explains in detail how this pedagogical strategy works and the benefits of using the blues to teach Shakespeare, which he submitted to Shakespeare Magazine.
Dr. Berntsen wrote this paper in December of 2017 and is proud to say that the editors of the magazine did not ask for any content modifications, which he realized is not common during the publishing process. Dr. Berntsen’s work reveals the importance of allowing students to be able to connect to what they are reading. He states that by bringing in the blues, “one major benefit to this approach is that it invites diversity into a course that may contain predominantly white, European authors” (4) and that “it acknowledges contributions from nonwhite artists and places them on equal grounds with a writer who is considered to be Britain’s best” (4).
Through his writing, a passion for pedagogy is revealed. When I asked if he read for fun, he stated that he does not, he reads for research, and when he reads it is always something that pertains to his pedagogy and improving his strategies in order to better benefit his students. Dr. Berntsen’s essay fits perfectly into his work because researching, developing, and writing about pedagogical strategies is what helps him in the actual classroom. His favorite part about his writing process is the research. He states that he loves to learn new information as well as finding out if anyone has applied specific pedagogical techniques before him. Dr. Berntsen states that the most difficult part of the process is the waiting period between the time he submits his work to the time that it is accepted to the time that it is published. He says that this process could take years. It is no wonder that the waiting period is the most difficult task, due to the anxiousness an individual would have in wondering how other people perceive their work.