The Teaching Life
Teaching and scholarly research have formed the basis of Kathleen Balgley’s career for over four decades. In every case, where the students “came from” naturally influenced who they were, and the notion of place was a central theme for student writing in these courses. She earned recognition of distinguished teaching in each of these settings.
Balgley’s specializations include women’s studies, American minority literature, composition studies, English education, Polish Jewry, writing about the visual arts, and the nineteenth century British novel. She designed the first ever course at Cal Poly in African-American women’s literature. She and her students confronted head on the issue of cultural appropriation with a white professor leading a group of mostly Black students through the literature. Balgley and her students determined that while they, the students, brought their life experience and sense of where they came from to the discussion, Balgley could provide them with some tools and strategies for reading the literature and for writing their own essays. That course, in particular, against the odds, was a great success. Balgley’s interest in visual art led her to write a course at UCLA among other courses she taught there, “Writing about Visual Art”. Pairing her writing students with art students across the city (she and her students traveled by bus to Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design (later renamed Otis College of Art and Design) in order for her writing students to observe the art students’ artmaking process, to interview them and write about what they learned. This interest of Balgley’s in visual art led to her work as an art curator and exhibition planner in Poland, Ireland, and the US for her husband’s, John Ratajkowski’s, artworks.