John Sirmans raises writers and bees
Whether it is a student, faculty member or bee, John Sirmans is dedicated to helping everyone in his path.
This semester, Sirmans is stepping into his new role as creative writing coordinator and serving as the interim English department co-chair with colleague Alex Blazer.
“I have an obligation to students,” Sirmans said, “and I want to make sure there’s no bump in the road for them.”
Sirmans is not planning to make drastic changes in the creative writing department. Instead, his main goals are for students to hone their writing craft and keep them on track for graduation.
To accomplish this goal, he is determined to keep the creative writing and literature courses intertwined within the English department.
“At the basic level, both programs essentially analyze language,” Sirmans said. “The creative writing program creates literature, while the literature program studies what has been written.”
Sirmans plans to mix creative writing and literature classes within the courses of study, so no matter a student’s concentration, he or she will leave GC skilled in both analyzing works and crafting their own.
Erica Garner, an English major with a creative writing concentration, said she is relieved by the changes. While she loves the program, she said she wishes that creative writing students were offered more courses in that specialty.
Blazer said he plans to unify the programs through a party with faculty and graduate students.
“Ultimately, we want to make sure that everyone feels that they are a part of the same department and are working for the same goals,” Blazer said. “We’re all one English department.”
Sirmans and Blazer are happy to tackle their administrative duties together. However, they are still searching for a permanent chair for the English department for the next school year.
“Our faculty members are very talented and dedicated, and I’m honored to be in a position to offer them support,” Sirmans said.
When Sirmans isn’t teaching students, meeting with colleagues or critiquing writing samples, he is with his bees.
A few years ago, his wife Claire Sirmans read a magazine article about the benefits of a bee farm. The Sirmans were excited to start bee farming, and soon enough, they ordered a hive.
“Claire is the official beekeeper and is certified from the UGA Beekeeping Institute,” Sirmans explained.
Their newfound passion has brought them to Georgia Beekeeping institutions as well as beekeeping clubs like the Heart of Georgia Beekeepers.
Just as John Sirmans works to improve the lives and careers of his students, being a part of the beekeeping community and instructional programs allows him and his wife to ‘talk hive’ with other beekeepers and improve the lives of their hives by learning from the experiences of others.
Now, the Sirmans have sixteen beehives. For them, beekeeping goes far beyond the honey.
“You soon learn that you’re not doing it for the honey; that’s more like a bonus,” Sirmans said. “You’re working with little creatures, and you contribute to the environment.”
According to the BBC, without bees acting as pollinators, plant life in temperate ecosystems would begin to fail.
Sirmans is making a lasting impact on the local environment and his students.
He left an impact on Garner, who took Sirmans’ intermediate fiction class.
“The way he constructively critiques your work and treated students was amazing,” Garner said.
She said she is thrilled that Sirmans and Blazer are the interim co-chairs of the creative writing and literature programs and is eager for the positive changes that they will bring this year.
“I think professor Sirmans is one of the best people for the job,” Garner said. “He’s a great people-person and has amazing communication skills with students. He will do everything in his power to help you, which is an amazing quality.”
If bees could talk, they would probably agree.