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About Us

YBMC English Language Arts

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Many of our students at YouthBuild McLean County feel that their communities have let them down.  Some prefer our vocational focus because they can go directly from our program into a rewarding career, and some like that that they can work toward graduation at a faster pace, but many come to us simply because they didn't find a good fit at their traditional high schools.

Teaching Philosophy

 At YouthBuild, my goal is to help students develop greater confidence in their existing writing skills, and then to build on those skills through continual practice with projects that draw on each student's individual interests.

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Many students don't realize just how well they already use language.  From conversations with friends and family to social media posts to filming short dance videos, today's students are continually engaged in communication across a wide variety of genres.

One problem with traditional English courses is the focus on two very limited modes of expression: essays and "literary" novels.  For students who struggle with school, these genres can feel entirely foreign — when they attempt to "write persuasively" or to "identify symbolism" based on academic expectations, they end up receiving negative feedback that reinforces the idea that they "can't write."  For some students, this experience often destroys their desire to engage in any type of formal communication — rather than learning to find the joy in reading and writing, they begin avoid writing papers and reading books.

To counter this, I focus on three key elements in my YouthBuild courses:

Naturally, this system is far from perfect.  It sacrifices many of the formal grammar and literary lessons that form the core of many traditional English courses.  However, this method allows far more writing than students might otherwise accomplish.  For each YouthBuild course I teach, students complete between 25 and 50 pages of writing, depending upon the reading load of the course.  Many students have chosen to write extensive works about their personal lives, some of begun novels and collections of short stories, and still others have assembled short essay collections across a breadth of topics I couldn't have imagined.

In addition to fostering these skills of self-expression, it's important that students be introduced to outside perspectives.  At YBMC, we have Literary Circles three times a week, during which students meet in small reading groups with staff from across the school.  Students and staff choose popular books they're interested in and read these works together, and then students write personal thoughts about the works.  Because we incorporate a wide cross-section of the YouthBuild staff, this shows students that the reading isn't simply a joy reserved for English teachers.

About Ryan Edel

I began teaching creative writing in 2008 when I started my MFA at Johns Hopkins.  I've continued teaching English Composition courses through my Ph.D. program at ISU (2011-2017) and then at Heartland Community College (2016-present).  I've been teaching English at YouthBuild McLean County since January 2022.  I also teach SAT/ACT test prep and creative writing seminators through Heartland's Continuing Education Program.

Additionally, I have a BA in English and German from Case Western Reserve University and an AA in Arabic Language from the Defense Language Institute.