Student Spotlight: Mary Eldredge-Sandbo -->

Where instructors and editors talk writing.

Student Spotlight: Mary Eldredge-Sandbo

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Mary and her husband live in North Dakota
with their two dogs.
This week marks the first post in our student spotlight series. In this series, we will discuss the highlights and challenges of academic writing from the perspectives of several Walden students. View the corresponding faculty spotlight post as well!

For our first student spotlight, we interviewed an EdD candidate in the Teacher Leadership program. Mary Eldredge-Sandbo has been teaching high school life science courses for 30 years and is in the thick of her academic writing career. We asked Mary for a few reflections on her experiences as a writer at Walden.

What is your writing process? 

During the school year, I write late at night and on the weekend after I have finished my lesson plans and correcting for the day. It is not that I consider my course work for Walden less important than everything else, but until I have taken care of my teaching responsibilities, it is difficult to concentrate on anything else. During the summer, I write off and on all day, with breaks for gardening, housecleaning, closet sorting, and other wonderful diversions.  I recently set up a writing table on our patio in the backyard.  I love working outside, but most of the time, I sit at my desk with a window view. The two dogs usually keep me company.

I think I could work on revisions forever, so I am grateful for due dates and deadlines.  I usually write my first draft, then I cut several sentences from each paragraph, then I cut words from each sentence.  I put each paragraph through Grammarly, located on the Writing Center’s webpage, to catch most of my grammatical errors, and then I get feedback from the Writing Center or a friend and I re-work each paragraph again.  Finally, I double-check my reference list.  I save nearly every rewrite with dates so that I can go back and retrieve a sentence if needed.  Now that I am working on my proposal and do not have set due dates, I use my Writing Center appointments as deadlines for writing specific parts of the proposal.

Do you have a favorite strategy or resource that you use to help strengthen your writing?

Reading my work aloud is helpful because it helps me focus and find silly errors and inconsistencies.  Feedback and support from the tutors at the Writing Center have also been very helpful to me.  They do not correct the errors, but they provide resources and explanations that have helped me to improve my writing.  I made my first appointment because I was not sure I was doing my APA citations properly.  The writing tutor helped me understand using APA, but more importantly, she asked questions and pointed out ways to help me make my writing more concise and clear.  Now I find myself asking some of those questions, such as, “Why is this significant?” and “Can you find research to support this statement?”

What aspect of writing do you find the most challenging?

I struggle with being concise in my writing. I constantly need to go back and get rid of the “fluff.” I find this to be excruciating, but the process forces me to focus on the topic. I always learn so much with each revision.

What writers inspire you?

I usually get teary-eyed when I read John Dewey, and text messages from my nieces and nephews always warm my heart.  More than anything, however, I am inspired when I read my students’ writings as they work to build their understanding of the many components and interactions of the living world.  My students’ varied perspectives fill me with hope for the future as well as gratitude that I have the privilege and responsibility of being their teacher.

What is your advice for fellow student writers looking to improve their work?

I have found great help in asking others to read my writing.  It was not until I asked for feedback that I realized I needed to be more concise; everything I wrote seemed important when I was the only one who read it!  I realized the value of getting feedback from an objective reader after my first appointment with a tutor at the Writing Center.  Because I have found that so helpful, I have also asked a family member, who is not in the education field, to read my writing to help me understand how I can make it clearer.  Receiving honest feedback can be a bit painful at times, but it is always helpful!  Even when I decide not to make a change to my writing, the feedback forces me to consider my message carefully.

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