September 16, 2023 | Matt Kucinski

A woman sits smiles as she sits in a chair in front of a bookcase full of books.

“I keep pinching myself, ‘is this actually real?’”

This August, Sabrina Lee sat in a classroom, thirsty to learn.

“It was certainly energizing to see a room full of new faces and also to have so many great teachers, professors giving advice and instruction,” said Lee. “Seeing different models of pedagogy that obviously care so much about students reconfirmed I am where I want to be.”

Lee, a 2013 graduate of Calvin, was in a room full of dozens of new faculty members, during their orientation session. She’s excited to both teach and learn this year.

“I think I’ll become the best teacher I can at Calvin, because so many professors are so dedicated to becoming amazing teachers,” said Lee. “I have a lot to learn from my colleagues.”

From student to colleague

Lee graduated from Calvin with majors in English and French.

“My notes from Debra Rienstra’s Shakespeare class are within three feet of me right now,” said Lee as she sat in her office. “I haven’t thrown them out yet.”

Now, Rienstra’s office and many of the professors who invested in Lee as a student are just a few doors down in the English Department.

“They are such incredible teachers and now I get to learn from them in a new capacity,” said Lee, who is teaching literature this fall. “To learn from them with the goal of taking care of our students is very exciting to me.”

Prioritizing teaching

Lee comes to Calvin from the University of Illinois, where she was an instructor and is finishing up her PhD in English. She also has a minor in Asian American Studies and is completing a certificate in theory and interpretive criticism.

Being a graduate student and instructor at a Big Ten research institution for the past several years, helped Lee appreciate the gift she had as an undergraduate student at Calvin where research is important, but teaching takes top priority.

“Calvin loves its students and really cares about teaching and that’s been one of my top priorities, where I found a lot of meaning. The most important work that academics do is teaching,” said Lee.

Lee says she loves teaching so much because she loves working with ideas with students, loves working with their writing, with understanding how they read, and especially what she calls the ‘lightbulb moment.’

“It’s one of the most rewarding experiences ever when someone’s working on tricky concepts, and it clicks. Students come to me during office hours, especially when working with tough topics or paragraphing and argument construction, from content-wise to something more technical in terms of writing, and those things can be tricky,” said Lee. “So, when students have been wrestling with it and they then get it, it’s so exciting. I love teaching because I love all the students.”

Committed to faith-infused learning

She also values Calvin’s commitment to integrating faith into all subjects, something she appreciated when she chose to attend Calvin as an undergrad.

“I wanted a college that integrated faith and learning, and I was excited about Calvin’s Festival of Faith and Writing. It seemed like such a vibrant, vivacious department to be able to put on something like that every other year,” said Lee. “So, it is such a dream to come back here and have that going on still and being even more vibrant.”

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