Tackling Teaching

From private investigator to librarian and published author, Xhenet Aliu now returns to teaching.

“It had always been something that I wanted to get back to,” said Aliu, a librarian on Piedmo

nt’s Athens campus, “but the timing had to be right, and all the stars had to align, which they did this past year.”

Aliu began teaching her first course since graduate school this January. It is a fiction workshop course, which means students’ creative writing is read and critiqued by the other students in the class, not just Aliu. After the success of her critically-acclaimed novel Brass last year, Aliu was asked by Piedmont’s administration if she would be interesting in teaching. The answer was obvious.

“I taught creative writing when I was in grad school, and I taught at conferences and things like that, and I had been wanting to get back into teaching, so, you know, it worked out,” Aliu said.

After graduate school, Aliu struggled to find a job with an English degree, and eventually became a private investigator in New York. She said the firm mostly investigated hedge fund managers and other financial types.

“I really learned how to do research. We had to do a lot of database research in particular, but I didn’t like the things I was researching for this job because I had no interest in the financial world… So, I started looking into library schools,” Aliu said.

Aliu waited until she found a fully-funded program, and eventually got her librarian degree from the University of Alabama in 2013. By this time, she was living in Athens and still working for the private investigation firm. Two years later, a librarian job opened up at Piedmont on the Athens campus. Now she juggles her library responsibilities with teaching.

“It’s been good. I mean, I don’t know anybody who’s like I have time to get everything I want done in my life done, so I don’t have any unique complaints,” Aliu said, “It’s busy. I’m only teaching one class, but I’m also still working full-time at the library, and I also teach classes at the Y and I’m also trying to write.”

Sophomore English major Hadley Cottingham signed up for Aliu’s course to work on her creative writing concentration, not realizing it was a workshop course. However, Cottingham said she has already learned a lot the past two months.

“I love Xhenet’s class. I look forward to every class period, and it’s a class where the work never feels like work,” Cottingham said. “She’s an amazing professor. She has great advice for writers, and she knows what she’s talking about.”

Aliu will be teaching more courses at Piedmont in the future. She talked about a new introduction to creative writing course that she is going to teach.

“There wasn’t a kind of class that you could take that gave you a sample of all of them so that you can figure out which of the genres you’re kinda most interested in pursuing,” Aliu said. “It’ll be fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. That’s also useful because there’s a lot of the craft of each that is helpful for the other genres.”

Cottingham had nothing but enthusiasm discussing Aliu’s current course. When asked if she would take another one of Aliu’s courses, the answer was a resounding “yes.”

“I would absolutely take another creative writing class if she has one. I love getting feedback and learning things I can use in my writing,” Cottingham said. “I have so much inspiration and creative energy again, and this class is a huge reason why.”

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