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Columbia College Chicago
Patrick Jehle
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Patrick Jehle

"I try not to teach the same thing twice, but if I do, I teach it in a different way."

Patrick Jehle

Written by Jennifer Tatum-Cotamagana, Nonfiction MFA
Photography by Jacob Boll

Patrick Jehle joined the faculty at Columbia, as an adjunct instructor in the English Department, in the fall of 2008. During his time at Columbia, he has taught a wide range of courses including Writing and Rhetoric I and II, British Authors: Romantics to Contemporary, American Authors: 20th Century, Introduction to Drama, Introduction to Literature and Introduction to Creative Nonfiction, and in 2011 was nominated for the Teaching Excellence Award.

About his teaching style, he says, "I'm exactly the way I am here [in this interview]."He says it's hard to explain how he is as a teacher and he references The Craftsman by Richard Sennett, a book that emphasizes the importance of craftsmanship and hands-on, implicit knowledge. Over time, with teaching, you develop skills that you may not be able to easily define or speak about. He says, "When you know a thing by doing it, you can't consciously call up what it is you know about it, very easily anyway. You know so much more than you can say. You know things about the tone in the room. You know things about how to manage students who aren't paying attention and you develop a feel for things, where as when you first start out you feel profoundly out of touch about how to deal with this stuff"

His approach,as a teacher, is to always be trying something new, always be researching and reading and to always try to develop strategies for teaching that allow for new ways of thinking.

Jehle studied "Great Books" at The University of Notre Dame, where he earned a B.A. in Liberal Studies and an English B.A. He then went on to obtain a Masters inEnglish from Notre Dame and is now in the process of obtaining a PhD inVictorian Poetry from Rutgers University.

About his education, however, Jehle says, "It really came from conversations with about four or five people and libraries." He credits several teachers, one of which he is now best friends with, as being the people who inspired him to think in ways that he had never thought and who oftentimes were able to change his mind about things that he thought he had already made his mind up about.

Jehle, an avid reader, encourages his students to be responsible readers and also believes that teachers must be "voracious readers and thinkers," continually educating themselves both in and outside of the classroom.

He encourages free, open and honest discourse in his classroom and says, "I try not to teach the same thing twice, but if I do, I teach it in a different way." On the first day of class he likes to ask his students what their favorite book is and what they are majoring in, so that throughout the span of the semester he can offer them interesting documentaries to watch and books to read. About his students, he says, they bring "a unique perspective to literature, usually an artistic one, based in the visual arts, and have a very tactile sense of texts. They appreciate the aesthetic dimension of novels, poems and plays and are sensitive to their nuances, which makes for terrific class discussion."

Outside of the classroom, Jehle is married to Jenny Boully, Director of the Nonfiction Program,and has a daughter. He is deeply passionate about cancer research and literature and is in the process of amassing quite a collection of information about the scientific theories behind the disease and various stories about people who have battled and are suffering from the disease. He is also working on an autobiographical novel that takes the form of a documentary film crew that follows around his alter ego as he commits outrageous acts of revenge. Jehle says, "It is an attempt to use the form of the novel to explore notions of privacy and secrets, vengeance and risk, artistic production and the performance of self."

Finding the time to write and to be creative while juggling a career and family isn't easy, and takes commitment and plotting out time to just sit and write, and though he is not always successful at this, Jehle says, "It's the nature of life that it's chaotic. The days that I feel most productive and happiest are the days when I have a very clear schedule and plan for the day and I stick to it."