By Tenzin Tsephel
Robin Woods is an English professor at Ripon College who teaches a variety of English courses such as Composition, Literary Criticism, Foundations of English Literature, Women’s Literature, Crime Literature and others. The end of this school year would mark her 27th year of teaching here at campus. Having spent a lot of time at Ripon College, Woods shares how literature and teaching are important and have impacted her life.
Woods was born in the northeastern corner of California. When she was young, her family had moved around quite often and had lived in both Arizona and Oregon before eventually settling down.
Wood’s original passion was to become a publisher, “I wanted to work in publishing, children’s publishing, and meant to do that all the way through college. Towards the end, I just fell in love with talking about literature….I realized that that was what I wanted to do all my life. To talk about books,” Woods said.
After realizing her passion, Woods decided to attend graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley — the same place she attended as an undergrad. She described it was a competitive environment that involved a tedious amount of work.
Woods decided to teach at Ripon College because she fell in love with the institution. “I came here for my interview and I fell in love with it… I fell in love with everybody who works here, and the students too. It was such a strong community and people seem to care a lot about each other”, Woods said.
She feels strongly about the relationship between a professor and their student, and once she saw that it was valued at Ripon College her heart was sold. Woods said the best part about being an English professor here is that she is given the opportunity to spend a majority of her time discussing about books with students. “Who could ask for more?” Woods said..
Teaching literature is an important value for Woods, “Reading is immersive, and it changes you, which is true of all learning,” she said. Woods feels that studying English can correlate with studies in other departments, “You’re making arguments about evidence. You examine the evidence to see what it tells you. You follow where it leads, and I think that that’s very similar to any other discipline. It’s all an investigation of what’s around you,” Woods said.
Woods’ philosophy, which she likes to share with Ripon College students, is that humans must be kind to each other. She recalls how, when she was a child, one time when she had grabbed a book off from her parents’ bookshelf titled “Between Parent and Teenager” by Haim Ginott. “It was an advice on how to parent teenagers … It’s about treating people with respect, and it talks a lot about a lot of ways to do it. It’s a really old book. A lot of the things it talks about is, we regularly talk about: not calling each other names and backing people into a corner,” Woods said.
She added how the book discussed the importance of respecting other people. At that time, she was not aware of how that one book and its message was going to be the cornerstone of her teaching philosophy.