CLASS ACT: Margie Netherton empowers her students to succeed

by Joe Wyatt
Published May 16, 2019

“Communication is power,” says Margie Netherton, a professor of English at Amarillo College who, no matter the topic at hand, emboldens her students to examine how it relates to them personally.


“All my assignments are geared toward their own lives, their own goals,” Netherton said. “I want them to reflect on hard things they’ve been through, how they’ve come out stronger and maybe discovered a strength or talent in that process.


“One of the most rewarding aspects of teaching for me is seeing students become more effective and confident writers and communicators. I have high standards but empower my students to meet those standards.


“I try to convey to them that communication is power … in every aspect of life.”


Netherton, who teaches everything from English Composition I to Creative Writing and British Literature II, joined the faculty in 1999 and has gamely helped reshape AC’s English-studies landscape ever since.


In addition to redesigning most of her own classes – more than once – Netherton has initiated new classes, such as Selected Studies in Literature, which features different topics each semester, e.g., Women Writers, Psychology in Literature, Larry McMurtry, and more.


She has based curricular adjustments on her own in-depth research of student resilience. She organized an alliance between high school teachers and AC faculty to exchange ideas about how best to help high schoolers transition to AC.


She even took it upon herself in 2004 to create AC’s literary magazine, Freelancer, to showcase writing and artwork submitted by students, faculty and staff. She oversaw the magazine’s publication for many years.


“I thought we needed a literary magazine to show students how important it is to validate your achievements,” she said.


Netherton began amassing her own list of achievements in her hometown, Mobile, Ala., where she attended Spring Hill College, an institution that she is pleased to note famously drew praise from Martin Luther King, Jr., for desegregating early on.


From there she earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of South Alabama and a master’s degree in English from Clemson University, graduating each time summa cum laude and magna cum laude.


She then completed all but her dissertation in Ph.D. coursework at Auburn University, where she received an accolade for Best Graduate Paper. She was working on the dissertation when she readily accepted an offer to teach at AC.


“I was privileged to work with some renowned scholars at Clemson and Auburn University,” Netherton said. “I learned about a lot of writers I had never been taught about – women writers, minority writers whose names I’d never heard, even as an English major.


“So, I make a point of teaching a diverse array of authors in my classes. I do teach the classics, but I incorporate the lesser known voices, too.”


Netherton is herself an author. She co-authored Rhetoric Handbook for English 1301 and 1302, which English Department faculty fashioned as an affordable alternative to expensive textbooks for cost-conscious AC students.


Additionally, her book Moving Towards Joy: A Self-Care Workbook for Caregivers Of Loved Ones With Serious Mental Illness was published in 2018.


Netherton became interested in mental health advocacy because she has a family member living with a mental illness and she came up empty in a search for support groups or resources of any kind.


She not only helped re-establish a local affiliate of the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), but she became a certified NAMI trainer and often leads classes and seminars that benefit families throughout the Panhandle.


“I’m trained in Mental Health First Aid and I let my students know that,” Netherton said. “Sometimes they want to talk. I think it is very important for educators to know how to respond when our students struggle.”


Of course, the vast majority of her time with students is spent leading them down fiction’s limitless highway.


“I teach because I believe in it,” she said. “It’s so important … communication is something we use every day. It permeates every aspect of our lives. And in no other subject do you get to walk in the shoes of other people so unlike you.”