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Faculty Spotlight | Mark Brock-Cancellieri

15 March 2021

A few things come to mind when you say English teacher: books, steadfast grammar rules, and an actor standing on top of desks, enthusiastically imparting the value of the written word to impressionable students. But Assistant Professor of English Mark Brock-Cancellieri doesn’t need to do any of that with his students; they’ve been impressed by his deep appreciation of the language since 2007 when he came on board as an adjunct faculty member at Harford.

Early on in his career at Harford, Mark quickly transitioned from face-to-face to online teaching. Part of the inaugural class of “The Certificate for Online Adjunct Teaching” (COAT), a MarylandOnline professional development program, Mark clearly saw the need for this affordable and quality option for our students. It propelled him to teach additional online classes while learning best practices, strategies, design principles and orienting students, as well as himself, to online learning. Mark truly enjoyed this new approach to teaching. He could relate to his students and their struggles in this new environment; little did he know how in demand these skills would be for his future and our institution.

Enter COVID-19. As the pandemic hit, Harford faculty were forced into a world of online teaching. Mark became instrumental in designing online education for Harford, concentrating on the design and implementation of courses so students could focus strictly on the learning and not technical issues. Harford’s e-learning community benefited from Mark’s expertise; he assisted faculty across divisions in their “Teaching Online Academy,” providing tools for converting lesson plans to the virtual environment. He now mentors full-time and adjunct faculty on effective processes and presence and creating a positive learning environment while engaging students in the online classroom. Mark says, “It’s truly been a unique time for me; I’m happy to make these important contributions and share skills I know will help my colleagues.”

The English language is always growing, as is the list of courses Mark has taught while at Harford. With over fifty sections of English 101 and sections of ENG 102, Research Writing, Technical Writing, African American Literature, Literature to Film and others, he brings a fresh approach to each class. A highlight for Mark is teaching advanced students in the College’s Honors Program, as well as supporting and developing instruction for Accelerated Learning Program (ALP) students.

“If people cannot write well, they cannot think well, and if they cannot think well, others will do their thinking for them.” The quote from George Orwell hangs on his office wall and he brings this notion into his classroom. “No matter which course I’m teaching, they’re all about composition and the link between them all is critical thinking. That’s what I like to think of myself as implementing and enhancing in each of my students. Whether I’m requiring them to write an essay or analyze literature, it’s truly all about making use of the information, improving theories, and strengthening arguments.” Mark emphasizes that it’s not a matter of memorizing names and dates from a website but deciphering the validity of the information seen. He’s passionate about making this necessary skill part of every assignment.

Serving such a diverse population on our campus contributes to the excitement in Mark’s lessons – one of his favorite things about being at Harford. The unique perspectives and opinions make for “out-of-the-box" ideas and creative collaborations for his students. “If my students are seeing and understanding these perspectives from fellow classmates, then I know I’ve done it right,” says Mark.

Educators need other educators to share ideas, measure improvement and skills and identify the educational needs of our students; it’s why Mark serves as a vital member of the Division Assessment Team for the Humanities Division. He’s been called a “trailblazer” in his area for continuing these assessments, developing stronger protocols, and continuing to stay on as a member to assist other faculty members in the process. Working with the College’s Learning Assessment Committee for the past five years, Mark’s important evaluations of Harford courses, teaching materials and instructional approaches make it possible for our students to keep learning and thriving as well as for the College’s accreditation. Serving on our Self-Study Working Group, as an ally and employee facilitator for Harford’s Safe Zone committee, and previously as a faculty advisor for Harford’s registered student organization “The Brony Association,” Mark’s dedication to Harford is evident.

Adding to an already long list of accomplishments is Mark’s work with the Harford County Civil Rights Project. As a contributing member, he incorporates lesson plans for his Literature to Film course with African American History, bringing focus to essential films about racism and civil rights history. “It’s my favorite class to teach. Students dive deeper into films they want to talk and write about.” Mark also collaborated with Professor of Reading and English Lisa Tittle to incorporate the Civil Rights Project’s work into their joint curriculum, often using local history as a tie-in for unique lessons. Their students responded with overwhelmingly positive results and enjoyed the connection to the place they live. Further, they presented those results at the Association of Faculties for Advancement of Community College Teaching at CCBC last year. “One of the things I enjoy most about working with Mark is his willingness to help me be a better teacher, especially in an online environment. I truly appreciate his intellect and insight and riveting conversation,” said Professor Tittle.

Outside of the classroom, Mark’s leisure time includes spending plenty of time with his family, including his 10-year-old daughter. They enjoy all the perks of city living in Baltimore and take advantage of its parks and museums. They get additional time together when he volunteers at his daughter’s school. Additionally, Mark parlays his love of English into service as an academic tutor for students needing additional support in writing, reading, and study skills.

And of course, as an avid reader, he’s always seeking out his next favorite book. Mark is also a musician. As a classically trained pianist, he grew up playing piano and eventually played in several bands during college and through graduate school in New Orleans. Now, his current projects include what he calls his "Dad-rock" band and playing some weirder music too, providing great creative outlets for him.

When Mark Brock-Cancellieri says he’s an English teacher, he doesn’t want you to think only of those books and grammar rules, but rather to embrace English as so much more than just a subject to study. He is proud to bring that to our students. Harford shines with his energetic teaching style, his caring and enthusiastic way with students, and his “team player” attitude, making him a perfect example of Harford Community College’s stellar faculty and all that qualifies him as this month’s Faculty Spotlight.