Dr. Kathleen Godfrey will be serving a one-year appointment as the Kremen School of Education and Human Development’s Interim Associate Dean. Dr. Godfrey previously served as the cair of the English department in the College of Arts and Humanities and has been a professor at Fresno State since 1999.
Get to know more about Dr. Godfrey.
Are you from Fresno?
I’ve lived in Fresno longer than I’ve ever lived anywhere, but I moved here to teach at Fresno State. My only connection with Fresno before that was that I had an aunt and uncle who lived here, though they had moved away by the time I arrived. Most of my family lives in Utah, but I’ve been a bit of a nomad, having lived in California, Utah, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Portugal, Texas, and Norway.
When you’re not working, how do you like to spend your time?
I love to travel. This summer, I spent a few weeks in Iceland and Norway, two countries that I really love. I’m also an avid reader–when I became an English teacher, I was determined never to lose my passion for reading . . . and I’m happy to say that I still love curling up with a good book. Since moving to Fresno, I’ve also developed a love for walking. There are a couple of “urban trails” I like–and I also enjoy walking around my neighborhood and our beautiful campus.
What are your success habits?
My number one success habit is that I’m an unabashed learner. I try to stay open to learning new things, which has allowed me to continue to love and re-envision my work. I also believe in the power of the list and the post-it note, both of which help me stay focused on specific tasks that I need to accomplish.
Tell us about your family.
My dad was a first-generation college student who went on to earn a Ph.D. My mother and all of my siblings have advanced degrees. One of my brothers has an MFA in graphic design and is currently an associate dean at Utah Valley University. I have four brothers, 16 nieces and nephews, and 4 great-nieces and nephews (with one on the way). My parents and most of my family live in Utah, though I do have a niece in the Bay area.
What was the first concert you attended?
When I was a teenager, a friend got free tickets to a concert by a forgettable band, Pablo Cruise. When I lived in southern California, though, I went to a lot of concerts, mostly alternative bands that were popular in the 80’s like the Cure and 10,000 Maniacs.
What are some of the most memorable concerts you’ve enjoyed?
One of the best concerts I’ve been to here in Fresno was at Strummer’s: a punk band called X. I love all kinds of music–so another favorite concert was at the San Francisco Symphony earlier this year, the first performance with their new conductor which included a piece by an Icelandic composer, Anna Thorvaldsdottir, and Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (the music from 2001: A Space Odyssey) which I’d never heard in its entirety.
What is your favorite TV show?
Lately, I’ve really enjoyed watching Pose, a TV show about the ball scene in New York during the 1980s, which features a number of transgender actors. I’m really moved by how the characters (whose biological families have rejected them) form their own structures of support and love. One of the characters in particular takes on the role of mother to LGBTQ teens and young adults, giving them a stable home environment. The show has made me reflect on what our obligations are to each other and how we can create communities that foster creativity and growth.
What is one thing about you that surprises people?
I collect cookbooks, but I don’t really cook that much.
What is your favorite holiday?
Christmas gives me the opportunity to visit family. Usually it’s just my parents and I on Christmas Eve and day, so our celebration is pretty quiet and relaxing. On another day close to Christmas, we have a big family party. My mother always likes to have a “program” where her grandkids perform. One year, one of my nieces taught us to salsa and meringue (she’s really into bachata, a dance from the Dominican Republic, but tried to keep it simple for us). Sometimes we’ll hold our party on an indoor basketball court which allows the kids to play some games. But more than anything, we tell stories and laugh a lot.
What was your first job?
I worked at the concession stand at a movie theatre. There was usually a rush before the movie started, but then it was pretty quiet. We were allowed to take 10-15 minute breaks–so if there were enough seats, we could sneak into the theater to watch a part of the movie.
Who was the most memorable teacher you had in school and why?
My sixth-grade teacher in Ogden, Utah, Mrs. Cannon, was a charismatic, smart teacher who made learning fun. She also taught us to play the ukulele. I still have a folder with mimeographed copies of all the song lyrics and chords she taught us. At the time, I didn’t realize that many of the songs we learned were protest songs from the 60s. As an adult, I’ve thought a lot about how she exposed her students to ideas related to social justice through music like “We Shall Overcome” and “Blowin’ in the Wind.”
When you were a child, what did you dream of becoming when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a teacher–I don’t remember seriously considering any other career. I finally achieved that goal by being hired to teach middle school in Long Beach–and now I’ve been a teacher for 32 years!
Are you involved in the community?
The work I’ve done in the community has been related to teaching. For 12 years, I directed the San Joaquin Valley Writing Project (SJVWP), a professional development organization for K-university teachers of writing. Over the years, we had partnerships in schools, developed workshops for teachers, and mentored teacher leaders. I feel really fortunate to have worked with so many dedicated teachers in the Central Valley–and across the country–through SJVWP. When I became the chair of the English department a year ago, I stepped down from that position, leaving it in the very capable hands of LEBSE professor, Dr. Juliet Wahleithner. This summer, SJVWP celebrated 40 years of influencing writing instruction and fostering teacher leadership in the Central Valley. In fact, I hope you’ll reach out to Dr. Wahleithner if you’d like to participate in SJVWP’s Summer Institute for teachers (or any of its programs). There are faculty from a variety of departments (English, Africana Studies, Music, and LEBSE) at Fresno State who have done so–and have enriched their teaching of writing and their understanding of writing instruction across disciplines in elementary, secondary, and university classrooms.
What are you looking forward to in 2020?
Every year is an opportunity to be curious, explore, learn, and grow!