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Blomstrand Inspires Students Through Active Learning

By Manuel Guerrero
EMCC Faculty Erin Blomstrand

Erin Blomstrand’s class offerings at Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC) include Banned Books and Censorship (ENH 295) and Shakespeare on Film (ENH 256), unique classes for a teacher who has had a unique background herself. 

Blomstrand has taught at EMCC since 2004. In addition to being a teacher, she is a feminist, activist and daughter. She draws on her experiences to help students learn more than what’s inside a college textbook.

Originally from Panorama City, Calif., Blomstrand moved to Washington state with her parents after her father received a job offer. A few years later they moved to Litchfield Park, Ariz. where she attended elementary school.

She returned to California for College, where she found one of her many passions while attending Diablo Valley College.  As a sophomore she learned set design and then moved into set painting and designing in a local theater. 

Later, Blomstrand attended Cal-State Hayward and received a bachelor’s degree in English. She remembers one moment in school where she realized that she had the potential to be a teacher.

“On one of the assignments, the instructor let me go for over 30 minutes,” said Blomstrand about a presentation she did. Her instructor was impressed with how effectively she had articulated the topic.

She then began to pursue a master’s degree in English at Mills College, where she found out how much she enjoyed learning.

"It was the most rewarding and exhilarating time of my life. I cherished every moment on campus,” said Blomstrand, who also taught foreign exchange students while there. “I loved learning, exchanging ideas with my professors and classmates. I felt like a scholar and academic in my master’s program.”

While earning her doctoral degree in Post Secondary Education, she had a different experience.  She took an online course and realized the teacher wrote to the students in all caps. It seemed unprofessional and unnecessary to her.

“I decided I didn’t need to be tortured by this person, so I dropped the class and took it again with a professor who knew that netiquette must be observed when teaching an online class,” said Blomstrand.

Blomstrand returned to Arizona in 2004 to help her parents get settled after retirement. “I remember driving through here and seeing a school, where there used to be a melon field,” said Blomstrand, referring to the EMCC campus.

She decided to apply for a position at the school and got hired teaching high school students in Tolleson in a dual-enrollment program in 2004. Her life before then had been filled with gaining knowledge and the first couple of semesters of teaching at EMCC were no exception.

“I was enjoying teaching, but I saw that all I was doing was lecturing, just like my previous instructors,” said Blomstrand. “I learned from a colleague close to me about active learning. That was the beginning of my learning as an instructor.”

Since then, Blomstrand has never looked back. She says the method works because it engages students, instead of just having them write notes in a notebook.

“Active learning is where you are engaging students, doing activities, rather than me lecturing. I create activities for them to figure out. I also have them come up with activities when I direct them to teach the class on a specific topic.” said Blomstrand, who also teaches English 101 and 102. “Getting students involved is much better because then they will connect with the subject themselves.”

Blomstrand teaches more than what is expected because she knows that all students’ aspirations are unique. “They need to be functioning and capable whether it is at Pepperdine or at Arizona State. I don’t discriminate. I prepare them for the next level, whatever that may be,” said Blomstrand.

Blomstrand also understands that learning doesn’t need to be confined to the classroom. That is why she helps organize multiple campus activities, such as Banned Books Week, Love Your Body Week and Domestic Violence Awareness Week.

Blomstrand is always thirsting for knowledge; in the near future she wants to travel to England to study 18th Century Theater first hand, gain knowledge and share it with the students she teaches.