New writing teacher motivated to inspire others
This semester, Tayler Otten, a junior majoring in English and creative writing, is creating content for the Lakeland blog, as well as the social media pages for Lakeland’s School of Humanities & Fine Arts. This is the first in a series of blog stories she’s written.
Madeleine Wattenberg understands the transformative power of a caring teacher. Now in her first year as an assistant professor of writing at Lakeland, she hopes to follow in the footsteps of the teachers who guided her path.
“When I graduated, my creative writing professor sent me a really affirming email that reassured me that applying to graduate programs for poetry was the right choice--a real choice,” Maddy said. “I hope I can offer my students that same affirmation and sense of legitimacy and value around what they choose to do with their lives.”
An award-winning poet and published author, Maddy said her goal in her first full-time teaching role is to connect students to poetry, literature and language, thereby helping them achieve their goals.
“I think there's a lot of power in small, day-to-day interactions--sharing a conversation about a book, suggesting a publication opportunity, making a new discovery in the classroom about what poems and language can do,” she said.
No doubt, Maddy is here for her students.
“While I certainly have personal career goals--I just started sending out my next manuscript for publication, for example--I view my vocation as teaching,” she said, noting that she hopes to affirm her students’ strengths and quell their doubts.
When Maddy came to Lakeland for the first time last spring, she saw potential. “When I first stepped into what is now my office at Lakeland during my campus visit, I looked out the window and saw a crane descend into the cornfields,” she recalled. “Yes, the sky was gray. Yes, the corn stalks were dead and corn-stalky. I loved it. I could feel, even during a misty mid-March visit, that Lakeland's small rural campus allows for an interconnectedness that is hard to cultivate at a large school.”
Maddy took her visit as a sign that she was meant to do great things at Lakeland. A sign that she was where she was meant to be, with whom she was meant to guide.
Growing up, Maddy’s family moved around a lot. When her dad lost his job in her native state of Michigan, her family decided to make a big move and find a home in Australia. 5-year-old Maddy lived there for six years (she still has Australian Citizenship) until her family decided to move back to the U.S., which took them to Kentucky.
Because her family moved a lot, Maddy and her two siblings were homeschooled by their mom. The siblings grew close as their mom found creative ways to teach them school subjects. Maddy’s favorite learning memory is when she would go out in nature and collect acorns for a math lesson. Maddy’s mom saw the importance of learning through nature and encouraged her children to play outside and explore. Her mom also encouraged her children to read in their free time, a lesson Maddy grew very fond of. A gift of a blank notebook would leave Maddy smiling for days.
Maddy and her siblings first entered school doors when they went off to college. Her twin sister, an English and Russian studies major, went on to become a data analyst, and her brother went on to become a doctor. And Maddy? She followed her passion – poetry.
As an English and philosophy major, Maddy was fascinated by the way poetry could be used to examine the world. Each opportunity she got, Maddy used her creative writing prowess to showcase her understanding in her classes.
“I'd even submit creative portfolios in lieu of research essays in my philosophy classes,” she said.
A poet with no bounds, Maddy had found her way to her true self. It took Maddy many moves to find her way to Lakeland … from Michigan to Australia to Kentucky and, finally, to Wisconsin. Her studies at Centre College, the University of Cincinnati and George Mason University made her the academic success she is today. But it was the kindness and guiding hands of her mother and college creative writing professor who made Maddy into the person she is today. Maddy has now found a home in Lakeland University and looks forward to building for her students the safe learning environment from which she grew.