Essay specialist and writing tutor, Marla Cunningham, has a combined ten years’ worth of experience in academic advising and classroom teaching working with multiple ages and skill levels. Her varied background has allowed her to work with Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and ESL curriculum. She was previously an English teacher at a private high school in DC and encouraged students to be readers invested in the world around them. Her syllabus explained that, “If a student can think critically about a book, then they can think critically about the world around them.” She enjoyed using data to drive instruction with her high school freshman. However, seeing juniors engage in critical thinking and employ their own arguments was very rewarding. She strives to ease anxiety that can come with the writing process whether it is a simple class assignment or a college application essay. In a session, her main goal is to help demystify the writing process by breaking it down into manageable pieces.
She grew up in our smallest state and attended the University of Rhode Island where she completed its Honors Program. The R.I. Honors Program has a particular philosophy and requires specific courses that emphasize “enriched rather than accelerated learning, adding dimension and depth to the subject at hand.” Her education there stressed dialogue and active learning. Marla completed a thesis that explored the feminine voice in popular literature and that culminated in a final presentation to faculty and students.
Marla made her way to the west coast where she taught in a private school with a focus on inclusion. During this time she realized how much she missed seasons and decided to pursue further education. It makes sense then that Marla attended UMass Amherst, earning her Master’s in English Literature with a focus on American works. She most enjoyed interdisciplinary work with comparative literature and applying different perspectives (such as artistic layouts) to historical documents.
After not being near a large city, Marla decided to move to the DMV area, which has won her over even with the humid summers. She enjoys Sligo Creek Trail in MD and loves that there is always something to do in DC.
Writing is a journey, whether for an academic paper, essay, or fiction for a creative writing class. I love teaching that journey! The college admission essay is especially powerful because of the personal and reflective power it possesses. It allows students to showcase their personalities and accomplishments to college admissions.