Loyola University Chicago

Writing Program

Heather McShane

Part-Time Instructor

  • E-mail: hmcshane@luc.edu 
  • I enjoy talking with students! Email me to set up a meeting.


Heather McShane is a new instructor in the Writing Program at Loyola University. She also teaches in the First-Year Program at DePaul University.

Teaching Philosophy

Keep an eye on the sculpture as you slowly approach it, stopping every ten paces to notice what is happening around you.
When we are dropped into a new environment, we experience it acutely. It is a messy process involving uncertainty, but often despite this, perhaps because of this, we learn.
Let’s sit together by the legs, and write about our experience.
Sometimes we don’t understand, but we can start to if we analyze the situation rhetorically. What’s the genre? This piece of writing is a teaching philosophy. Media/design? It appears online, and ease of readability was considered, as seen by the contrasting black against white. Some paragraphs are shorter than the rest. The purpose? I hope to entertain you at the same time as I teach you about me. The alternating paragraphs are meant to show differences in my teaching approaches: the shorter ones when I am being more creative and experiential, the others for rhetoric. What about tone and stance? I am taking a risk in an effort to connect with you and give you a sense of my personality. By not starting with exposition and by pointing out that this teaching philosophy is more informal than usual teaching philosophies, I show awareness of academic conventions. I realize novelty can be effective; it can motivate students as well. I am attempting to connect with you my audience in a similar way that I might my students, asking you to read the same writing, to respond to it, to pose questions, and to be ready to discuss when we meet. Who exactly is my audience? My audience is administrators, instructors, and students. I want you all to be excited and engaged.
Let’s talk about our experiences.
We want support and motivation in the shared experience of (figuratively) moving together. I would like to know who you are.
Before being an instructor, I worked for more than ten years in an editorial capacity. As can be seen in my writings and art, I enjoy thinking about the experience of language as it extends from the written word to the physical world. I am a member of Writing Group, a collective of Chicago-based women, trans+, and gender nonconforming people who write. In our meetings, we read and critique each others’ writing, much of which ends up getting published and some of which is from people writing dual-lingually. I am a mother. I have had the luxury of being an able-bodied white person from the United States, though I have experienced poverty at times in my life, been a foreigner while spending a semester abroad, and had parents without bachelor’s degrees. I recognize that I have not had to consider certain issues and make adjustments in the same ways as other people, but I try to feature marginalized artists in my courses and otherwise be sensitive and be willing to be called out.
Listen and respect.
We can contribute to future understanding and even scholarship. I encourage students to empathize, to be open to new ideas, to become self-aware, and to express themselves clearly. My assignments tend to allow students the option of choosing the topic about which they’ll write. I want them to be personally invested and interested in assignments and share ideas in class discussions. Ultimately, I want them to consider multiple viewpoints in order to find common ground. I might ask “What might someone say who is criticizing this?” or “How else could this be interpreted?” At times, I push them by having them interview community members or experts. In my Chicago Quarter course on artists’ books and zines offered through DePaul University, we venture to neighborhoods all over the city and talk with all walks of people. As part of the course and another on zines through the University of Illinois at Chicago, students create projects that are archived in the university library, which further empowers them and includes them in a collection that has often privileged certain types of people.
My students are amazing. Faculty invite students from courses in DePaul’s First-Year Program to submit their work to the annual Writing Showcase. In 2018, eight of my students won awards for excellence in writing, with judges reading a total of 218 submissions and asking a total of 39 to display their outstanding work.
We desire to connect with other people. I tell my students that I am interested in and understand some of the challenges they face, sharing this teaching philosophy with them. To better be equipped to teach multilingual students, I finished the requirements for a Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Certificate in 2020. Because of my performance in the TESOL courses, when my department received a Departmental Development Grant to expand investment in teaching multilingual writers, they extended grant money to me. Through the department’s support, I was able to attend the 2018 TESOL Conference and to help develop a new course for multilingual writers.
Sometimes we don’t want to admit when things go poorly, but this is a way to learn. While I like that the Chicago Quarter course involves students serving the community, for a few years, we did not have a good fit. It wasn’t until this year that we did, when we worked with Midwest Books to Prisoners, filling book and zine requests for people in jails and prisons. We looked through donated material categorized by genre on bookshelves and packaged small bundles in the hopes it would reach and would be enjoyed by the intended recipients.
Describe the legs.
We are vague before becoming more pronounced.
Legs, only legs, iron legs, rusty in parts, seemingly hollowed legs, big and tall, it’s sunny outside, there’s a plaque: “Magdalena Abakanowicz’s Agora,” among the green where they sit in the grass of the big park in downtown Chicago, against the backdrop of skyscrapers and sky (lake not visible but felt), wind, sounds of traffic and people, smell slightly sweet.


  • B.A. in English and German, Doane College
  • M.F.A. in Writing, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Research Interests

  • Creative Writing
  • Contemporary Literature
  • First-Year Writing
  • Multilingual Writing and Linguistic Justice
  • Anti-Racist Pedagogy
  • Sociopolitics
  • Artists' Books and Zines


  • Innovative Use of the Art Institute in a First-Year Program Course, DePaul University, 2017 and 2018



  • No Home but Everywhere. Meekling Press, 2015


  • Directory. Self-published, 2022
  • Funeral Flowers. Colortones Books, 2013




  • “Discerning Eyes: Watchful White Walls," “Livestock Roams Portland Streets," “A New Trend: Baby Critics,"“Only Rumors," and “The Thursday Before.” The Record of Public Works, 2015
  • “Four.” Alice Blue, no. 17, 2012, www.alicebluereview.org/seventeen/prose/mcshane.html