Michele Castleman

Michele Castleman

Assistant Professor of Education

Children’s Literature

As a child, I loved to read. The first book I truly fell in love with was Matilda by Roald Dahl. When I was in first or second grade, I stayed up late to keep reading and fell asleep with my face in the book. Escaping into children's literature provided me with an escape to fantastic and varied worlds. Books for children and young adults often include very serious and real conflicts or problems, but often incorporate a sense of humor or hope that is not always present in books for adults.

While in undergrad at Michigan State University, as an English major, I began to realize I missed reading children's books and that those were the books I most enjoyed reading and analyzing. At the time, there was not a children's literature course that I could take on campus. So, I felt like a creepy adult to slink back into the children's section of the bookstore near campus. I finally felt like I belonged in the children's section again when I started my MFA at Chatham University. I was studying writing for children while also working at a Barnes & Noble.

Also, a lot of children's literature is very innovative in terms of structure and media. It's fun to see the way authors and illustrators play with story. I also love to see when college students identify with the characters and experiences in young adult novels.

Small School Intimacy

During my first day at Heidelberg, I believe I taught my "Teaching of Writing" course. I'd taught it before at another university but had always had more than 20 students in the course. At Heidelberg, there were seven students. I enjoyed being able to check in with each individual in the room and get to know them and check that they understood the expectations for the following meeting.

Outside the Classroom

I love our beautiful campus. Depending on the weather and the plan for the day, I enjoy being able to teach outside from time to time. One of the first times I did this, my course on young adult literature was reading Catcher in the Rye. We met by the pond and we had a long discussion about the book. It was the quintessential college experience (one that I had never had myself as a student).

Passionate Students

I love seeing them have a strong reaction to a reading, watching how passionate they can become about the subject matter and about the future K-12 students they will one day teach. I also love that I get to know many of the students I work with very well since I usually have four or five courses with English education students.

AIM Hei

I loved teaching the themes on Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. With each topic that I taught, I encouraged the students to develop a group activity to help them bond. The first time I taught The Hunger Games, we went to play laser tag. Two of my other of my AIM Hei groups chose to go and see relevant movies in the theater together. Last spring, I had my most recent AIM Hei group play quidditch outside. (This is the wizarding sport in the Harry Potter series that has become an actual sport on some college campuses. It involves throwing some balls to score points, avoiding being hit by other balls, and trying to catch a player who is dressed in gold. All while keeping a broom between your legs.) My honors course on Harry Potter will also be playing quidditch this fall.

Heidelberg Hogwarts

Taking advantage of some of the faculty, staff and students' love for the Harry Potter series, for the last several years, dedicated faculty, staff and students have helped to organize and enjoy a feast and trivia in the Wickham Great Hall of Campus Center. Each year, the event gets more and more involved with Heidelberg faculty and staff taking on the roles of specific characters of the Hogwarts faculty. The food reflects food that could be found at Hogwarts. We have a costume contest, mini-potions lesson and even floating candles along the ceiling. I love seeing the costumes that the students, community members and faculty create.

Fun Facts

Hometown: I grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Since I started working at Heidelberg, I moved to Tiffin and live close to campus.
Pets: Two cats: Frankie and Fred. Each is a little weirdo, but in very different ways.
Hobbies: Writing, reading, watching movies, acting in plays and running.
Most influential teacher/professor: I have had many wonderful and influential teachers who have helped to shape me as an educator. I will focus on a teacher that I had between first and third grade: Michelle Kopinski and Barb Boyce. I remember listening to the two teachers take turns to read aloud to the class. In preparation for an author visit, they read aloud Brian Jacques' book Redwall. That was another book series that cemented my love for children's literature.
Favorite book(s): It's so difficult to choose! I love The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling, That Is Not a Good Idea! by Mo Willems, Matilda by Roald Dahl, The Hero and the Crown by Robin Mckinley, and many more.
Favorite campus event(s): The Hogwarts Feast and watching plays and other performances on campus.

Read more in the Humans of Heidelberg series.

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