Alumna helps students take writing out of the classroom and into the mainstream

Em Ramser teaches a masked English class during COVID-19
Em Ramser teaches an English class during COVID-19. Photo by Sara Altom.

Em Ramser (MA, MAT ‘20)

Poet, educator, activist and TWU alumna Em Ramser (MA, MAT ‘20) once swore “up, down and sideways” that she would never become a teacher. 

Headshot of TWU alumna Em Ramser

Instead, she followed her talent and passion for the written word and enrolled in Salem College’s English and Creative Writing undergraduate program. To help make ends meet, she accepted a summer job as a teaching assistant.

Standing in front of a classroom for the first time was a revelation. “It made me realize that I could be a teacher who didn’t just teach a class but supported my students as both learners and humans,” Ramser said. 

Her newfound appreciation for education brought her to TWU, where she pursued an MA in English and an MA in Teaching simultaneously.

She completed both degrees in 2020 and now teaches and designs curriculum for high school pre-AP English classes at Grapevine-Colleyville ISD’s ASPIRE Academy for the Highly Gifted

“One of the hardest things with teaching English is convincing students my class matters and that it will benefit them to put time and effort into it,” Ramser said. Unlike most high school subjects, which produce either right or wrong answers and provide clear benchmarks for success, improvement in writing can be difficult to measure.

Inspired by her TWU English classes with Dr. Gretchen Busl, she decided to design her curriculum around professional opportunities for students, specifically around the idea of “pop scholarship.”

“Pop scholarship takes writing outside the classroom,” Ramser said. “It shows students how writing can be used in the real world and it empowers students as writers. Once students see that someone other than their teacher cares about their writing and that they can be writers, particularly published writers, they start caring a lot more about English class and writing as a whole.”

Em Ramser wears a mask in front of high school lockers

She started researching professional opportunities for her students and came across The New York Times’ Learning Network Coming of Age in 2020 Multimedia Contest. Every student in her freshman class created something for the contest, and 19 of them decided to submit their work. Of the 19, six were named as finalists and one finalist was published in a special print edition of the paper.

A journalist from the Times contacted Ramser with the news about her student finalists, and during their discussion, she learned about Ramser’s unique teaching approach. Ramser was asked to write an article outlining her methods, which she plans to co-author with several of her freshmen students for publication in early fall 2021.

Ramser’s own works have been published in Thimble Literary Magazine and Linden Avenue Literary Journal. In her free time, she serves on the steering committee for OUTreach Denton and co-creates and collaborates with the Spiderweb Salon, a creative collective in Denton where she has performed live and, during the pandemic, virtually.

Em Ramser reads her poem "to the wasp caught between the screen and window: an apology letter" for Spiderweb Salon's virtual Spiderdead 2020 event.

In addition to teaching, Ramser serves as the faculty sponsor for her school’s Poetry Club and GSA, an LGBTQIA+ student organization, while also volunteering on her campus’s Diversity Advisory Committee.

Her activism and leadership in the LBGTQIA+ community were motivated in part by a course with TWU Assistant Professor of English Dr. Ashley Bender. While working in the university archives, Ramser came across a collection of papers donated by Dr. Edra Bogle, a University of North Texas professor and LGBTQIA+ activist in Denton.

"(Dr. Bogle) devoted so much of her life to supporting LGBTQIA+ folx in Denton, yet so few people seemed to know of her," Ramser said. With Bender's help, she continued her research into Bogle's life and legacy. She worked as an experiential student scholar with Bogle’s collection in the archives and later spoke as an expert on Bogle at a March 2020 conference focusing on lost Texas voices. "Reading about the work she did and how far she was able to come really made me think a lot about how I navigate Denton as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. It also impacted my teaching and inspired me to do more work as a GSA sponsor at the high schools I’ve worked in and to do everything I can to support queer and trans youth."

Em Ramser reads poetry at a Spiderweb Salon event

Ramser reading poetry onstage at Spiderweb Salon. Photo by Nina Chantanapumma.

In fall 2021, Ramser will continue to teach her freshmen ASPIRE English course and begin teaching ASPIRE AP English Language and Composition for juniors as well as AP Research for seniors.

“Teachers and school saved me. When life was hard, teachers stepped up from high school all the way through grad school. They listened to me. They helped me get books and opportunities. There were many times throughout grad school that they even helped feed me. I owe my everything to my teachers; they’re why I became a teacher.” Em Ramser (MA, MAT ‘20)

Headshot photo (right) by Frank Darko. High school hallway photo (left) by Sara Altom.

Page last updated 3:51 PM, August 30, 2021