With one denimed knee tucked tightly under her chin, wisps of chestnut hair slightly contained, and an eager smile, English lecturer Kate Brubeck welcomes all into her articulate and dynamic world.
Brubeck often bops into the classroom, whether dressed in blue jeans and blouse or polka-dotted dress and cowboy boots, ready to entice all with grammar lessons.
“Kate has a boundless energy which makes the class interesting,” said Meeta Kaur, a graduate student.
Brubeck is teaching two classes at Mills this semester, Advanced Composition and English IY, an English class for non-native speakers.
The majority of the students are taking the Advanced Composition class to improve the mechanics of their composition, though dreading its potential drabness. The course combines all aspects of grammar, as well as stylistic assignments accepted as either creative or academically written.
Sophomore Alexi Ueltzen said, “I really like the mix of technical stuff we do in the class and the opportunity for really creative writing.”
Brubeck dances in front of the Mills Hall classroom, elegantly animating her explanations and fitting each lesson to each type of learner.
“It’s the class I look forward to the most,” Ueltzen said. “She’s so energetic, she makes something as boring as grammar interesting and cool and fun.”
However, Brubeck said, “I’m actually shy; I just get up in front of the class and make a fool out of myself.”
Brubeck’s father was a foreign diplomat, and so she considered herself a “foreign service brat.” As a child she moved all over, from Washington, D.C., to London, then Beirut, and then Italy. She finally settled in California in 1994 after receiving her B.A. and M.F.A. from Sarah Lawrence College in New York.
As well as teaching at Mills, Brubeck also owns and operates her own business, Language Matters. She modestly handed me her business card which read “ESL instruction, personal and professional writing, and teacher training.”
Brubeck has 15 years of experience teaching English as a second language, and provides private “workshops and one-on-one consultations.”
Outside of the classroom, Brubeck said she enjoys Zydeco and Cajun dancing. She also sings in a honky tonk band. “I sing pop standards from the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s. I sing Celtic music, traditional French music, maudlin country stuff, honky tonk tunes, blues. You name it we sing it,” she said.
When asked about her experiences at Mills and teaching at an all women’s college, Brubeck replied, “I like teaching in a women’s environment. It’s really great when you can pull up your hose in front of people and they understand.”