Introduction

Arya (left) and Jon (right) taking a cat nap.

Hello everyone! I can’t wait to get to know all of you as we begin our journey through graduate school!

My name is Maura O’Neill, and I’m a high school Spanish teacher. I live with my husband (who I married this past August!) and our two cats, Jon and Arya (pictured above). Originally, we’re all from Scranton, PA, but since there are a lot more jobs in Jersey, we moved here last year. Before living and teaching in New Jersey, I spent a year as a long term substitute for a middle school English class, and before that, I studied English Secondary Education and Spanish at Marywood University. 

I enrolled in Kean University’s English Writing M.A. program because I want to broaden my knowledge of varied writing disciplines and hone in on an area that interests me enough to make a career out of it. English is my passion, and as much as I enjoy learning about Spanish grammar and Hispanic culture, I never actually planned to teach it. Just in case my very Irish name didn’t clue you in, I’m a native English speaker who happens to be interested in Spanish language and culture. 

My interest in the subject is something I’d like to continue cultivating at Kean, perhaps by expanding on my undergraduate research; in my thesis, I explored how code-switching literature by Latino authors could be used in high school English classrooms. Although I love reading Spanish literature, studying Spanish grammar, and writing in Spanish, I feel more comfortable doing all of those things in the English language. Ultimately, I hope that earning my Master’s in English Writing will help me find a career where I can make use of my writing skills and my love of the English language. 

Writing—in almost any form—is the way I express myself best. I enjoy academic writing, where I can analyze texts, synthesize research, and organize my complex thoughts about a particular topic into a coherent argument. Lately, my writing has been more professional than academic, consisting of emails to coworkers, administrators, parents, etc., in addition to instructions, assessments, and feedback for students. Recognizing my diverse audiences and choosing appropriate vocabulary for every situation is one part of the writing process I enjoy.

I also love the technical aspects of writing; I get a thrill from properly placed semicolons. Figuring out the best punctuation marks or grammatical constructions to convey my ideas is stimulating, especially when I purposefully bend or break the rules when writing creatively. Sometimes, it feels like there’s a story inside me that needs to be told, and writing poetry or short stories is the best way to wrench it out. It’s easiest for me to express my ideas through writing because it allows me to create multiple drafts where I can reword key phrases and think carefully about the diction that will best express my message. 

I’m so excited to be part of a program filled with other students who love writing as much as I do. I can’t wait to get to know all of you and to learn from each other this semester!