“Reading is one of the joys of life,” she says. “Literature can take you out of your world, but it also connects you to it. You can’t really teach that, but you can give your students the space needed to experience it. ”
Whether they are reading a paperback, hard copy, or e-reader makes little difference to Hurajt who for 25 years has been engaging her students to embrace the written word in a variety of classes from standards like World Literature and Poetry to special topics like the Graphic Novel, Women in Mythic Literature and Arthurian Legends.
“I try to show them that no matter what you are reading or writing about, it relates to your world and can touch your heart,” she says. “The material needs to be meaningful,” she says.
Hurajt, who is also coordinator of NECC’s popular Honors Program, encourages all her students to explore reading material that may be unfamiliar.
“Some students already love a subject such as myth, poetry, or writing. I share that excitement, but want to see them expand their world view,” she says. “I’ve had students write to me at the end of the semester saying they had never read a poem before, but after reading poetry for a class, are moved to purchase poetry books.”
She knows how important it is to inspire her students. She herself was inspired by a professor at Youngstown State University, where she was an English major, to apply to a master’s degree program at the University of East Anglia, England. She earned a master’s in the 19th and 20th Century English and American Novel.
“It was something I never thought I could accomplish as no one in my family had ever earned a graduate degree or traveled outside of the country.”
That degree brought her back into the classroom, where she became the one to inspire. While she enjoys teaching all English classes, teaching the reading and writing of poetry is dear to Hurajt, who herself belongs to a poetry-writing group.
“NECC can both open the door to a future career,” she says, “but it also is a place to learn to love learning. There is support at every level, from foundational courses through honors-level courses.”