Joel Tellinghuisen - 1998

Position title: Education, Clinical Counseling

Pronouns: he/him

What career pathway have you pursued since your time in the UW-Madison English major?

I have taught high school English for the past 19 years. I began my career at Farragut Career Academy in the Chicago Public Schools and taught there for 7 years. I currently work at Lake Park High School in Roselle,IL and my main teaching areas are AP Language and Composition, AP Literature and Composition, and American Literature and Composition. As part of my ongoing education, I also completed a Master’s program in Secondary Education at National Louis University in Chicago, and a Master’s in Literature from Northwestern University in Evanston.

Having a solid foundation in literary analysis, rhetoric, and composition, from my English degree, it was an easy transition to the classroom. Building off of how I was taught to review texts helped me to provide similar approaches for my students. I also was blessed to have very dynamic professors who took the teaching part of their job as seriously as their scholarship. Their passion and joy was a great example of how to engage a classroom.

In August, 2020, after completing a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, I began a parallel career as a Licensed Professional Counselor. Again, I feel that my English degree has been crucial in terms of my ability to communicate with clients, find accurate case study and research to supplement my practice, and have access to hundreds of examples of the “human condition” through the novels, poems, and plays that I have studied. I do not believe that I would be as effective as a therapist without my background in English, and I feel confident in my critical thinking and analytical skills when working with clients.

What did you enjoy about the English major?

When I arrived in Madison, I could not believe my good fortune that I would be able to read, discuss, and compose on books ALL THE TIME! I also was a part of the Honors Program, which gave me a special opportunity to work more with professors, and to complete an Honors Undergraduate Thesis. Some of my favorite memories were working with Professor Elmer Feltskog, as he helped me to grow from an intellectual simpleton into a more serious scholar. I loved his knowledge of American literature, and his earthy approach to scholarship made me feel comfortable undertaking work of this stature. Meeting at the Rathskeller and discussing Toni Morrison is a cherished memory.

I also was very fond of Professor Eric Rothstein; his wit and incredible intellect was pronounced but not inaccessible to an undergraduate audience. From him I was always reminded to enjoy what I read, and he was an inspiration as a teacher.

Professor Rich Begam intimidated me, challenged me, and introduced me to Literary Criticism in a most intense manner. I often thought of him as I plowed through Frederic Jameson when writing my Master’s thesis, and how thankful I was for his guidance and instruction in tackling these challenging texts.

Other majors, certificates, or key points of involvement during time at UW:

Honors Program, Undergraduate Honors Thesis Scholarship Grant Recipient

How did your time as an English major prepare you for your current work? What skills do humanities students bring to your industry?

First and foremost, as Jose Luis Borges said, “…I am all the writers I have read…” When students ask me why I am always reading, I respond that it is simply my ongoing education in the understanding of humanity. To observe, analyze, reflect, infer, and critique, are all part of my current work, both in the classroom and in the therapist’s office.

Wisconsin’s English department provided diverse courses that exposed me to a variety of authors; they challenged me in all facets of learning, and truly helped me to learn how to think critically about any number of topics and issues. I loved the scholarship aspect of my courses, but also knew that I wanted to teach and attempt to ignite a passion and curiosity in students much like I experienced in so many English courses at UW.

I feel confident in my content area, and confident in my ability to communicate. I have an ongoing desire to learn and educate myself, which was strengthened during my time at UW. One of the biggest compliments a student can give me is when they say “How do you know about all this stuff?” A background in the humanities means a curiosity of humanity, and that spans music, literature, philosophy, history, politics, economics, psychology, law, and so much more. I feel that this characteristic really began during my time as an undergraduate in the English department, and I so thankful to have studied in an environment that encouraged this cross-disciplinary approach. I am a better teacher and therapist because of this and am thankful to have so much information at my disposal to meet my students and clients where they are at.