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My name is Dr. Harold William Halbert ("Dr. Hal" or "Dr. Halbert" are perfectly acceptable ways to address me during the course), and I will be your professor. Currently, I serve in three roles at Montgomery County Community College: I am an Associate Professor of English, a writing tutor (although not over the summer), and the President of the MCCC Faculty Federation. I have a B.A. from the College of William and Mary in both English (with honors) and Government, did a year of Master's level work at West Virginia University, and then transferred to Lehigh University (my first private school experience) where I earned both an M.A. and Ph.D. in English. My academic interests include all of American Literature, Early American Literature, African American Literature, Slavery in Literature, and Language Acquisition. I teach Composition I and II, American Literature I and II, British Literature II, Science Fiction, Women in Literature, and African American Literature at MCCC.
I am a military kid: my dad worked his way up from Private to Captain, earning his college degree well after I was born. My mom taught elementary school after raising my sister and me, spending 20+ years working primarily with first graders. My first memories are actually from West Germany, where my dad was stationed: I grew up seeing myself as an American rather than someone from a neighborhood, state, or region in the USA. German kids hated American kids in the 1970s: they learned from their parents that if the Cold War heated up, the nukes would fall on Germany, and the military bases in West Germany actually faced terrorism from anti-American Germans. They blew up a general's car not far from my elementary school, which is a sobering thing to have to deal with before I even entered third grade. During my dad's military career, I lived in North Carolina, California, Germany, and Kentucky before he retired to Virginia and took on a civilian job working in defense intelligence.
Fast forward: I was deemed a good egg by most folks, naturally smart but not particularly concerned about working hard. I was smart enough to stay out of trouble until my senior year, where I had a meltdown of sorts that ended with me being kicked out of school briefly. Fortunately, I had already been accepted to college, and off I went to Williamsburg, Virginia, home of William and Mary, the second-oldest college in the country and still a public school. I had a disastrous first semester in college, largely because I ran a bit wild, but also because I did not know how to learn: I had relied on my intelligence to carry me through most tests and projects, never bothering to learn time management, how to mark texts, or how to study. Fortunately, I worked with tutorial services, and along the way discovered that I was mildly dyslexic. After my first year, I started to improve dramatically as a student despite opting to double-major in both English and Government. As a result of that combination of majors, I tend to interpret literature and film through political lenses, particularly the social politics around identity issues.
I went on to get both a Master's and Doctorate from Lehigh University, and I was lucky enough to get a full-time job right out of the gate: I have been a professor at Cabrini College (a school with a great faculty but ultimately a place I quit because of disagreements with administration), Valley Forge Military College (I wanted to watch them integrate women into their program, but left soon after because I definitely do not approve of the military school philosophy), and came to Montco after taking some time to ask what I want out of the professing life.
What I want is a job where I work with folks at every level of the intellectual and economic spectrum, every major ethnic community, and every level of ambition. Working at a four-year school can be fun, but professors at those schools tend to want to avoid working with first and second-year students, preferring to work with upperclassmen instead. Juniors and Seniors generally don't need much in the way of a professor: if they make it that far, they'll be fine no matter who teaches them. I prefer working with entry-level students, be they dual-enrollment high school kids, traditional age college students, and older folks who are looking either to make a change or for a second chance. I needed a second chance and made the most of the one I got. I want to help others to succeed, and Montco provides that opportunity each semester. I have worked with students here who should be at Harvard but couldn't leave home because of obligations at home. I have worked with single-parents juggling multiple jobs while trying to improve life for themselves and their children. I have worked with developmentally challenged folks, students who never once had a positive thing said to them by a teacher, and know-it-alls who need to be convinced, gently, that they may actually have a few things to learn. I want to make a difference for people, and so I make you this promise: if you need help, ask, and if it doesn't violate school policy, break the law, or require me to be unfair to others, I'll do my best to drag you across the finish line.