Non-Profit Internet Source for News, Events, History, & Culture of Northern Frederick & Carroll County Md./Southern Adams County Pa.


The teacher in all of us

Carolyn Shields (MSM Class of 2014)
Samantha Strub (MSM Class of 2013)
Katelyn Phelan (MSM Class of 2011)
Chelsea Baranoski (MSM Class of 2010)
Jacqueline Quillen (MSM Class of 2010)
Katherine R. Au. (MSM Class of 1998)

(Dec, 20101) We, at the Emmitsburg News-Journal, would like to thank Dr. Peter Dorsey for dedicating his time and expertise to the many Mount writers of the paper. As a senior advisor Mount representative of the paper, Dr. Dorsey helps us pursue our deep desire to become the best writers we can be. He edits the submissions of Mount students who write for the paper and the time he has dedicated to that endeavor is countless. Recently, Michael Hillman, the paper’s editor, sent out an e-mail to those of us who have had Dr. Dorsey as a professor during our time at the Mount and asked us if we’d like to contribute to an article on him. We unanimously agreed, yes, since, as Michael said, Dr. Dorsey is an unsung hero of the paper.

However, Dr. Dorsey does far more than edit submissions for the paper. He is the current Chair of the English Department at Mount St. Mary’s. He is a loving husband and family man. He is a man of faith. He is a believer in the importance of educating the whole being and does that as a member of the faculty in the humanities curriculum at the Mount. He is a mentor to Mount students and a professor who shows his students his love of the written word.

In an interview with Samantha, Dr. Dorsey said that he decided to become an English teacher for a variety of reasons, but primarily from a love of reading, a passion for literature, and, from that, the opportunity to make a living doing what he loves. Teaching is a profession that has meaning to him. It was through his own college experience that he learned how amazing the depth of knowledge could be and discovered he wanted to share that experience in his own classroom.

He read Mark Twain when he was young and enjoyed science fiction by Arthur C. Clarke and others like him and enjoyed non-fiction works about the Greek myths and astronomy. When asked to pick three favorite books, he said he couldn’t possibly pick favorite books but the three that came immediately to mind were James Joyce’s "The Dead," F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, which really made him fall in love, and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, which is about humanity’s quest for ultimate knowledge.

He had entered college intending to be a pre-med student, but then later decided to major in English with a plan to study law. One semester of law school taught him he wanted to teach right away. He thus began the path that would bring him to Mount Saint Mary’s.

It was Fr. Joe Feeney who most influenced him in making that choice to teach. Dr. Dorsey cited Fr. Feeney as the most amazing teacher he ever had at St. Joe’s. Fr. Feeney showed him a love of literature and inspired him to pursue English; he made literature exciting and kept Dr. Dorsey’s interest and taught him literature’s gifts into the great insights of the human experience. These gifts gave Dr. Dorsey the philosophy he himself chooses for the classes he teaches.

When asked why he chose to teach at the Mount, Dr. Dorsey said he felt it would be better for his path in life and the path he sees for himself. The Mount is an institution centered on the importance of the liberal arts. Its focus on the humanities is to educate the whole person. Further, it is a faith-based center for education. Finally, it is a community where he can raise a family and where he works with a group of colleagues he respects. What does Dr. Dorsey find most rewarding about teaching at the Mount? Its students! He views Mount students as bright, friendly, hardworking, and truly a part of a community. He finds that the entire community at the Mount enables an environment that is happy and wholesome and where everyone can thrive.

Dr. Dorsey has been sharing his knowledge of literature and his gifts as a teacher with many students at the Mount over the years. As Jacqueline, who is a Mount alum from the class of 2010, wrote: "Dr. Dorsey has unique ways of encouraging his students to do their very best. In his American Experience class I think everyone earned the full 15% for class participation, or close to it, simply because Dr. Dorsey forced them to talk in class. Getting a discussion going among college students at 9:30 a.m. is not the easiest task. When Dr. Dorsey asks a question in class, and no one volunteers to answer, he randomly chooses a student to pick another classmate to answer the question. It’s like reversed psychology; the student is the teacher who uncomfortably calls on someone just to get a discussion going. It always worked and by the end of class every student learned more and earned a few more participation points.

My goal in Dr. Dorsey’s American Experience course was to write flawless essays on the tests. As an English major, I looked at Dr. Dorsey not only as my history teacher but also, and more importantly, as the Chair of the English department. An A on an essay test from Dr. Dorsey meant a lot to me. I was always just a few points away from a flawless essay every time which always made me try harder. Dr. Dorsey never stopped critiquing my work and guiding me as I improved my writing even beyond college.

At the beginning of my senior year, I was rushing to get the necessary signatures for changes in my course schedule. After my faculty advisor refused to be my internship supervisor, I didn’t know who else I could ask. I was new to all of the English professors because I had just joined the major a semester earlier, and my internship supervisor had to be an English professor who was willing to take on additional work without compensation. I went to Dr. Dorsey and asked if he was willing to fill the role, expecting him to say no because I was sure he already had enough on his plate. But I also knew that if he did say no he could guide me to another English professor. When Dr. Dorsey agreed to be my supervisor, I was thrilled and excited.

When agreeing to assume the position, Dr. Dorsey laid out the ground rules--weekly journals, a final paper relating the internship to literary study and NO LATE SUBMISSIONS! I understood that I had to follow these rules strictly with no exceptions, and I did. When I sat down to write the final paper, I hesitated about how I could relate my career-focused newspaper articles to my understanding of literary study. What was my understanding of literary study? I thought it was reading novels and talking about the metaphors in class discussions. After deeper contemplation about everything Dr. Dorsey has taught me in and out of class, I came to an incredible understanding of literary study and how it fits into my life. This triggered a deeper passion for literary study. That final paper was one of my most successful moments in college, and I have Dr. Dorsey to thank for it. Dr. Dorsey has always challenged me to think in a higher realm as a writer."

When I read Jacqueline’s words, they reminded me how Dr. Dorsey’s syllabus brooked no exceptions. I remember also not only wanting to write better in his class but also learning to do so by his comments. When Chelsea was asked to write about Dr. Dorsey she wrote:

"I had Dr. Dorsey for American Experience I and American Experience II. These were two of the most difficult classes I took at the Mount because they were American history classes, and I am by no means a history buff. Dr. Dorsey was always willing to help me revise my papers. I met with him during his office hours and he gave me excellent feedback that helped me tremendously.

Dr. Dorsey has been revising my articles for the Emmitsburg News-Journal for over a year. Every time I write an article, I send it to Dr. Dorsey for editing and feedback. Even though I am sure Dr. Dorsey has a ton of papers to grade, he still manages to take the time and respond to my articles promptly. Dr. Dorsey is very supportive of my work, and I am truly grateful for his encouragement.

Dr. Dorsey hooded me at the Baccalaureate Mass for the Class of 2010. It was a special moment, for Dr. Dorsey really got to know me through my writing for the Emmitsburg News-Journal that year. I could tell that he was truly happy to be at the Baccalaureate Mass. His smile was contagious. The next day was the big "G" word, graduation. The Class of 2010 was lined up in the field house and waiting to process into the Athletic Complex to the sound of "Pomp and Circumstance." I cut out of line to get a granola bar, and I saw Dr. Dorsey. He smiled that ear-to-ear smile, and I told him that graduation did not feel real. I saw Dr. Dorsey again when I walked off the stage in the Athletic Complex. He beamed and asked, ‘Does it feel real yet?’ I said no. Indeed, my friends and caring, knowledgeable professors like Dr. Dorsey made it hard for me to detach from my mountain home.

After graduating from the Mount, I saw Dr. Dorsey at my sister's honors breakfast. Before I knew it, he was standing in front of me, smiling and talking to me about the Emmitsburg News-Journal and my work at the Anne Arundel County Board of Elections. It was nice to know that, even though I am no longer a student at the Mount, Dr. Dorsey still cares about my achievements. I am thankful that Dr. Dorsey is supportive of all of my writing endeavors."

Dr. Dorsey’s love of teaching and the progress of his students is infectious. He’s made a career of developing better students through the classes he teaches and has taught throughout the years. And, in addition to all else that he does, he agreed to help the students who write for the paper. Dr. Dorsey said he accepted gratefully and told Samantha how he enjoys the opportunity to help Mount students get some professional experience. He enjoys reading and editing the articles, and he knows that he is helping someone fulfill a dream of becoming published. He helps the paper for his students, past and present. As Samantha wrote:

"I met Dr. Dorsey my first semester freshman year. I had responded to an email he sent out requesting English majors to write for the Emmitsburg News-Journal. I have always wanted to write for a newspaper as a precursor for publishing a novel later in life. Dr. Dorsey was very kind and generous about helping me write my first article. With that achievement, I began writing a monthly column relating to the Mount that will follow my college journey.

I knew I was going to like him from the moment that I stepped into his office, asking questions about the newspaper. He seemed overjoyed that a freshman was so interested in writing and wanted to start right away. He took me under his guiding wing, helping me through the articles I wrote, giving me the feedback that I needed to improve my writing, continually making everything better. All the comments that he sends me about my articles make perfect sense; sometimes they are even so obvious that I’m constantly apologizing about how silly it is that I would have missed it. Dr. Dorsey being the kind man he is always tells me not to worry, saying that everyone is always improving their writing; improvement is a task that is never fully completed. He understands that you miss things in your own writing, and time and practice is the only sure thing for making it better. He is always there with comments that help you become a better writer.

This semester I see Dr. Dorsey as a teacher instead of just the editor of my newspaper articles, which is a whole new experience. I have him for American Experience I now and American Experience II next semester. He is a wonderful teacher not only for his teaching skills but because he is passionate about the subject he is teaching. He combines a history class with excerpts from American literature making students who are by no means history buffs able to gain a better grade by having the literary excerpts in the class. He makes any topic come to life, and if you are ever confused about anything, he is more than willing to help you.

Dr. Dorsey is certainly an asset to the Mount, both as a professor and as the Mount Creative Writers editor for the Emmitsburg News-Journal."

Some of the people that Dr. Dorsey has helped on the newspaper have not been in his classroom. As Carolyn wrote: "I knew Dr. Dorsey through church (although he was only Mr. Dorsey to me at the time), so I was thrilled when I learned that I would be working with him on my articles for the newspaper. I met with Dr. Dorsey in his tiny office, decorated with sheets of computer paper with notes and essays filling the wall space. He was very kind and made me excited to start my future here at Mount St. Mary's. His insights are always so helpful. He can point one little thing out and a light bulb literally goes off in my head, followed by an "Ooooooh. That makes perfect sense." He is really helping me to keep it simple. Anton Chekhov tried to share that fact as well. Simplicity is everything. Get to the point. I look forward to continuing to work with Dr. Dorsey, and I hope in the future I'll be placed into one of his classes."

As Carolyn illustrates, it is not only with his students where he has made a difference. Katelyn also has yet to have Dr. Dorsey as a professor, but through working with him on the paper, she also has been inspired by him. She wrote: "I met Dr. Dorsey my sophomore year when I decided to major in English and needed an English advisor in addition to my Fine Arts advisor. Though I have not had the privilege of learning from him in the classroom, I have spoken with him many times in his office. He is one of the most gentle, kind, and considerate people I have come across at the Mount. Dr. Dorsey has been a help to me when I was selecting my Mount courses, when I was considering going to graduate school for English, and most recently, in editing my articles for the Emmitsburg News-Journal. He has always taken care to read my work thoroughly and provide helpful corrections, both for that specific piece as well as giving advice for writing in general. He is a friendly face, always smiling, and always willing to help out where he can. Dr. Dorsey is certainly an asset to the Mount and its students and to the Emmitsburg community by providing excellent feedback for the Emmitsburg News-Journal’s Mount contributors."

Dr. Dorsey is a self-proclaimed bookworm and good reader, but he also admits that he was not always a good writer. He attests to the long process he’s taken to improve his writing skills. He affirms that teaching writing to others has actually taught him how to improve his own writing.

He did express in his interview for this article that he feels people are communicating a lot more through blogs, emails, texting, etc. People are doing a lot more writing which is a good thing. However, the quality of the writing is not at the same standard it once was. Those writing skills need to be better. He sees this task as something that he does in his classes. He tries to place his students in the position of being writing teachers. He asks students to look at their own work from an outside perspective. He has students exchange their writing to help them understand the problems they themselves have in their own writing. This is a process that makes better writers.

When asked what he will look back on as some of his fondest memories someday, he answered they would be of his wife. She earned her M.ED, and he has always been a little jealous that she is a true Mountie. Those of us who are true Mounties are thankful for his contribution to our education while attending the Mount. I studied with Dr. Dorsey about fifteen years ago for a couple of classes, and he showed me a love of literature and the written word in a way that both excited me to learn more about how to write and to convey messages in a way that was both honest and meaningful. I remember him as a professor who was fair and whose door was always open during office hours. What I remember most about him was that I respected him and his abilities as a professor and he inspired me to find a voice as a writer. He helped me channel my creative nature further, and I found through his tutelage a true passion for writing. He taught me to be a better writer, just as he has taught all of us how to be better writers. We all learned to live by the edict that Dr. Dorsey also lives by; as Oscar Wilde said, "Good writing is never finished, only abandoned."

Therefore, all of us at the paper wish to give the gift of gratitude to Dr. Dorsey this holiday season for his guidance and willingness to share his knowledge.

Merry Christmas, Dr. Dorsey.

P.S. Without your guidance, Dr. Dorsey – how did we do?