by James Hearne
As Dr. Amy Amendt-Raduege’s English 102 class files out, they hand in a writing assignment in a pile near the front of the room. One student asks for a stapler. “A stapler,” she says, with a laugh and a grin. “Why would we have a stapler in a classroom? That would be logical and make sense!”
Amendt-Raduege, or “Dr. Amy” as she is known to her students, has a unique, dry wit which may be the first thing that distinguishes her, but that’s only the start. She used to be a biologist. She was accepted to Harvard twice. She helped train astronauts on how to grow kidneys in zero gravity, a revolutionary process that has the potential to save a lot of lives. She speaks Old English. She’s now an English teacher at Whatcom Community College.
Dr. Amy had very humble beginnings. She grew up in a Minnesota town, with a population of 844. “It wasn’t quite the end of the world,” she said, “but you could definitely see it from there.” Ever since childhood, she stood out from a lot of her peers with her love of literature.
“Even at a young age, I was a bit of a geek,” Dr. Amy said. The two books she credits most with her current line of work are “A Wrinkle In Time,” by Madeleine L’Engle, and “The Lord of The Rings,” by JRR Tolkien. “They illustrated the power of literature,” she said.
Dr. Amy attended St. Olaf’s College, where she received a bachelor’s in biology. After she decided not to pursue a master’s degree in biology, she and her husband, an MD, decided to relocate to the Pacific Northwest.
“We had the whole country,” Dr. Amy said, “and we chose here.”
It was at this point she decided to invest herself in her first love, the written word. She worked her way to a PhD in English literature from Marquette University. In fact, her dissertation was on one of her favorite authors, JRR Tolkien himself. “Now I teach English and I love it,” Dr. Amy said. “Just love it. I love those moments where you can touch someone’s life.”
“I was born to teach literature,” she adds. “It just took me.”
Dr. Amy tries to maintain a nurturing environment in her classroom, as illustrated by her philosophy on giving feedback. “Being nice doesn’t always help, but being mean never does.”
Dr. Amy’s specialization is medieval literature. She said she would love to teach a class on it someday. In fact, she has presented papers on her first literary love, “Lord of the Rings” at medieval literature conferences all around the world, and is recognized as a Tolkien scholar.
Despite all her lofty achievements, Dr. Amy is perfectly content at Whatcom Community College. “I love my colleagues,” she said. “It’s great to come to work and hear people laughing.”
And where would she like to be 10 years from now? She smiles and utters a single word: “Here.”
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