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Meet Our Employees

Thursday, July 24, 2014 -- Carly Bursik

Meet Joanna Steele! Sr. Curriculum Writer located at our Texas office.

Tell us about yourself!

I grew up in a little farming town called Milan, Michigan (not to be confused with Milan, Italy. We even pronounce it differently—long ‘i’ and a short, nasally ‘a’ sound). The town only had four stoplights and a population of about 4,000 people when I graduated high school (with a graduating class of 100).

I did my undergrad at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, which was the only college I actually wanted go to, having been born and raised a Michigan football and hockey fan. I started college as a voice performance major in the School of Music, but I quickly realized I didn’t want to make music my life, so I switched majors to History and Psychology. I then got a Master’s degree in History at Eastern Michigan University.

How did you hear about Edmentum?

When I got done with my Master’s, it was right about the time the recession hit. I was out of work for about a year before hearing about this job. A friend of mine from my grad program was already working for Study Island, having found the job on Monster.com. They needed an additional person to do freelance writing for social studies, so she called me. Apparently the “powers that be” liked my work because they offered me a full time position in May, 2008.

I never thought I would work in publishing. I’d always thought that someone with a Master’s in History could only ever be a teacher. It was a nice surprise to find this job.

I also never ever thought I would find myself one day living in Texas and enjoying it. If you would have asked me 10 years ago the places I would never live, Texas would have been at the top of the list! Growing up in a small town, I never thought I’d be living in a city the size of Dallas one day. I wouldn’t go back to small town life, though. I’m now spoiled with the convenience of city living.

What is your department responsible for?

I’m a senior writer for the Social Studies team in the Curriculum department. My team develops most of the social studies products that the company produces. We’ve worked on PLATO courseware (in the last year, we produced a World Geography course, a US History course, and a US Government course), but we mostly work on Study Island core products.

What interests you about the field that you work in?

I might be biased, but social studies is the best field out there. It encompasses so many different disciplines, from history to government to economics to geography. It even overlaps with other fields, like earth science, English language arts, and even sociology. I love studying a new time period or historical event by really diving into the how and why and when. It’s fascinating to see how economics, societal pressures, and even geography can play a hand in the development of historical events. 

What is the most enjoyable aspect of your job?

I really enjoy writing lessons, which is probably why I like working on PLATO courseware products. A big part of my job normally is writing assessment items. I most enjoy writing anything that’s more instructional so that way, I can build a historical narrative that I hope students find useful.

What activities are you interested in outside of work?

Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m a big nerd. I read a lot, and most of what I read is fantasy and science fiction. I also particularly enjoy young adult literature. I think young adult or children’s literature is less pretentious than a lot of adult literature and is also more whimsical; it has fewer boundaries and ideas of what it “should” be about. Madeleine L'Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time, once said, “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” I find that sentiment to be very true.

That’s not to say I don’t read adult literature. I’ve also read The Lord of the Rings about eight times and A Song of Ice and Fire twice. I also like anything about superheroes. And shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly.

What are your professional goals?

I’ve been kicking around the idea for about a year now of going back to school and getting a degree in instructional design/educational technology. It’s an area that’s always fascinated me.  I think learning more about how people learn and better instructional practices would help me not only in my current job but also in future career opportunities.