Dr. Mikee Delony did not start out to be an English teacher – or any teacher for that matter. In fact, she went straight from high school into the workforce, and it was years before she began to pursue a bachelor’s degree.
But when she started, it seemed that she just couldn’t stop.
“Going to college was always a dream,” she said. “And I had an incredibly supportive family.”
Delony intended to earn her B.A. and stop there. But as she discovered how much she loved learning about English literature, she slowly began to realize that teaching it was one of her God-given gifts.
“I had a friend who once told me that when you find your gift, it gives you energy,” she said. “That’s what teaching does for me. There’s just so much to talk about and discuss – there’s always a conversation to be had.”
She started teaching at the community college level in 2000 and hasn’t stopped teaching since. Along the way, she’s taught children’s classes at church as well as graduate classes at ACU.
“I’ve taught all the way from 3-year-olds to 70-year-olds,” she said. “It’s just the most wonderful, energizing thing I’ve ever done.”
Delony chose to pursue English because of her experience as an undergraduate at the University of Houston. For her, English literature provides an important way of understanding the past as well as the present.
Connecting the dots
“I fell in love with my English classes. And I had some really great professors,” she said. “English, and especially mythology, is a good way to discuss culture.”
Her love of myth led her to a dissertation on Chaucer’s Wife of Bath, which involved first a close reading of the text and an examination of Chaucer’s critique of medieval society, and second an examination of how the Wife of Bath appears in modern media, including films and TV episodes. She uses much the same approach when teaching medieval literature to her students.
“We watch movies a lot, trying to connect the literature to contemporary life,” she said. “It’s really fun to connect the dots. And I love it when students start seeing myths everywhere.”
At ACU, Delony finds it easy to get students excited about the possibilities for mythology inherent in everyday life. In fact, the ability to get to know her students personally was one of the factors that drew her to ACU, along with a warm and supportive faculty.
“It’s one of the things I like best – the collegiality. Working with the English department faculty is terrific,” she said. “But the hardest part is watching students leave. I get to know them so well.”
The hard questions
Delony teaches both undergraduate and graduate classes, focusing on world and medieval literature. She recently got back from a conference in the United Kingdom hosted by the International Association of Robin Hood Students, where she presented a paper examining Robin Hood’s attraction to sacred space, or church.
She’s currently working on a book about film/TV adaptations of Chaucer’s Wife of Bath, an idea conceived during her doctoral dissertation.
No matter what class she’s teaching, she works to make sure her students have looked beyond their own horizons by the end of the semester. Whether it’s looking at the medieval obsession with bodies or reading Confucius and the Koran for World Literature, she wants her students to engage in something new and unfamiliar.
“There are just so many connections in literature to who we are,” she said.
ACU’s focus on Christian scholarship has impacted not only the way Delony teaches, but also how she relates to her students in the classroom. And it’s nurtured her personal faith as she discusses her convictions with faculty, staff and students.
“I love the fact that we as faculty not only talk about faith in the classroom, but individually,” she said. “You can’t talk about myth without talking about faith.”
And Delony appreciates the fact that she’s part of the process of helping students form their own faith. She tries to make her students step back and look at their faith a different way, but she’s always there to discuss those hard questions with them as they work through their doubts and queries.
“I think ACU is a good, safe place to start asking those deep questions,” she said. “And I love the fact that in this job, I get to be a nurturer and mentor for my students.”