Professor from Poland encourages students to engage in reading

By Sarah Griffin

Rider Professor Iwona Ionescu seemed charming, warm and extremely welcoming to everyone she came across.

Ionescu’s auburn-hair was cut neatly into a bob, with short bangs that didn’t cover her crystal blue eyes and a wide smile covering her face most of the time.

As an English professor, Ionescu tried to encourage her students to use their imaginations in their writing and to read as much as possible, two things she believed to be the most important skills of a college student.

Ionescu wanted to help students focus on reading and writing skills, which, in her view, improve with increased reading.

In terms of the importance of reading, Ionescu said that reading connects us to history and marveled at the fact that “someone sat down and wrote these ideas to connect with people this way.”

Ionescu tends to remember the students she loved more than the students she found to be difficult. She believed that in order to have a good class, a professor would benefit from “a couple of students who are really good” and motivated to do their work.

Ionescu, a Poland native, met her husband at a dance when they were both living in Europe.

After the two dated for some time, her husband got accepted into a Ph.D. program in education at the University of New Orleans. She moved to the United States to join her husband, where they got married and started a family. During the time when Ionescu and her husband were in a long-distance relationship, she began teaching English at a community college for a couple of semesters.

Ionescu described her experience learning English in Poland as bland and used it as an example of what not to do as an educator. Instead, Ionescu aimed to get her students to love writing. Describing teachers in Poland, Ionescu said,“[Teachers] wouldn’t even provide feedback. They just said this is bad, and that was it.” This inspired her to teach her students differently than she was taught.

Ionescu says that after a few semesters, she began to love the idea of teaching “because you work with students, which is great, but also every semester I learned so much.”

One of the most rewarding aspects of teaching, in Ionescu’s view, was learning lessons from her students in return for the lessons that she taught them.

Ionescu said that the best class to teach would have students that are always involved; she thought that one of her writing classes was very engaging because “it’s a research class, so I allow the students to select their own topics.”

From her student’s perspective, Ionescu taught her class with understanding and kindness. Psychology freshman and a former student of Ionescu, Noelle Hazel, said that her former professor was “warm” and “made it really easy to learn from and made you feel supported and comfortable to ask for help when you needed it.”

Julia Bayait, a junior elementary education major, worked as an embedded tutor for one of Inoescu’s classes in the fall 2021 semester.

Bayait called Ionescu “hard-working” and said Ionescu taught her many lessons: “Not only was she extremely supportive the entire semester, but I learned a lot about tutoring students and writing … The
fact that she valued my input was very encouraging, especially as an education major.”

As an immigrant, Ionescu said that Rider University is very welcoming and that she personally has never had an experience of feeling ostracized by other professors.

Ionescu, an adjunct professor, has in the past felt like there was some type of hierarchy between full-time and adjunct professors, but added that she does not feel that way anymore.

Ionescu moved into a house close to Rider after she started working as a professor. She soon began to feel that Rider was “just an extension of my home.”

Ionescu found that she loved the campus because “the people are very nice, and I just love the students.”

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