November Instructor Spotlight: Tim Becker

Hello Hokie Writers!

Our composition program at Virginia Tech is home to many wonderful instructors who care deeply for their students and their professional work. So, to show our thanks for these instructors, we’ve developed a monthly installment called “Instructor Spotlight” that will feature an instructor who is currently teaching composition at VT.

What better way to begin a week that asks us to reflect on what we are thankful for than to get to know one of our new Instructors. Our inaugural Instructor Spotlight is Tim Becker. Tim received his MA from NC State in 2019.

Q: How many years have you taught?

A: This is my first semester as a full-time instructor, but prior to this, I was a teaching assistant at NC State University for two years, a freelance tutor for three years, and a trainer at Apple for four years where I taught a dozen or more public technology workshops each week.

Q: What’s it like teaching Hokies?

A: Excellent! The Hokies in ENGL1105 arrive in their first semester already developing a strong sense of community and belonging, and I’m thrilled to have so many international students in my class. Also, I’ve had the pleasure of teaching over forty architecture majors this semester—creative and hardworking students in one of the top programs in the country.

Q: Tell us about your favorite teaching moment.

A: Earlier this year, I had students adapt a natural science article for a popular audience. Most of my students created beautiful Wix or WordPress sites for this purpose, but one of my students decided to draw on her skills in fashion design. In addition to a ‘mood board’ explaining the harmful effects of micro-plastics in the ocean, she made a wearable dress using only discarded plastic water bottles she collected on campus, complete with a bottle cap corset and a skirt made of label stickers. The dress served as a visual argument about the amount of plastic we throw away on a regular basis, and the corset was made to be tight so that the wearer would feel a little short of breath—a tactile simulation of the reduced oxygen level in the ocean due to micro-plastics. Advising her through this project and reading her thoughtful reflection reshaped my idea of what is possible in first-year composition.

Q: What are you reading?

A: I’m currently making my way through student drafts for a project I’ve never taught before: a rhetorical analysis of a TV title sequence. I’ve already learned so much about film techniques, animation, pop culture, and visual arts from my students’ perspectives, not to mention weirdly fascinating details about the filming of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the impressive number of sci-fi references packed into the 30-second sequence of Rick & Morty, and rich interrogations of the openings to WestworldFriendsStranger ThingsAmerican GodsThe Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and many other shows.

Q: What’s your #1 unpopular opinion?

A: My unpopular opinion is that there aren’t really any unpopular opinions. For every well-liked film, book, musician, food, or idea, there’s always a crowd of people who don’t care for it. Some are just more vocal than others. 

Q: What should people know about you?

A: When I’m not teaching and researching, you can usually find me writing and recording music, skateboarding, biking the Huckleberry Trail, cooking delicious vegan food, spoiling my cat, or driving to and from Baltimore to spend time with my spouse Naomi (a second-year PhD student in geology at Johns Hopkins University). 

Wishing you a relaxing and rejuvenating Thanksgiving Break,

The Virginia Tech Composition Team