by Charissa Veal

Cleveland, Ga. – Cierra Winkler, an Assistant Professor of English at Truett-McConnell College, shared several life experiences, her future goals and ambitions, and her love for reading and teaching literature, especially in a Christian setting, in this week’s Faculty Spotlight.

As a teenager, Winkler developed her love for reading through the influence of her grandfather: “Every time I would visit my grandparents, he would have a new book for me to read, and I watched him devour any book he could find, no matter the subject,” Winkler said.

In the eighth grade, Winkler was voted the ‘Class Bookworm’ and lived up to her title by taking an ambitious road to pursue her new passion. “[I] decided to skip my senior year of high school to begin my Bachelor’s degree in English from North Georgia (North Georgia College and State University),” she said, “and I’m so glad God allowed me to follow my passion for literature as a career.”

As courses that explored lesser-known genres and texts attracted Winkler’s interest, she realized she would not be able to teach similar courses unless she taught in higher education; and so, her goal then was to become an English professor.

Ministry and literature collide

During her junior year of college, Winkler worked at a youth camp in Wasilla, Alaska on a mission trip with her church: “I fell in love with the youth camp where we ministered and strongly felt God’s call to continue working there,” Winkler said. “I returned to NGCSU and finished my senior year, but two days after graduation, I packed my Jeep and drove 4500 miles back to Wasilla.”

While on her way, Winkler received a call from the University of Alaska informing her that she was accepted into their Master’s program. So she worked and lived at the youth camp, studied for her Master’s, and taught as an adjunct teacher before returning to Ga.

The process of leaving Alaska for Ga., however, was difficult for Winkler. Her grandfather passed away during the fall semester of her second year of master’s classes, and she was unable to attend his funeral due to finals. “I remember praying for God to give me peace about staying in Alaska, but instead, it became clear that God’s plan for me was to finish my last semester of school, then return home to help my parents take care of my grandparents,” Winkler said. As a result of coming back to Ga., God gave Winkler five more years to be with her grandmother before she passed away in January of this year. “I wouldn’t take anything for these past five years with her,” Winkler stated.

The road to TMC

In 2008, when Winkler moved back to Ga., she taught at NGCSU for two years. Considering her future, though, Winkler said, “I’ve always wanted to teach at a Christian institution where I could openly share my faith and consider my job a ministry. A friend told me to apply to Truett, and God worked out the details. I’m so thankful to be teaching here, and I know this is where God wants me to be!”

Some of her favorite aspects of teaching at Truett-McConnell involve getting to know new and old students, watching them grow, and having the opportunity to show God’s enriching beauty through literature. “It makes me so proud when I hear of a student’s accomplishment or decision for Christ each week. I also enjoy teaching about how literature can and should be a part of our vision of God’s creativity and beauty.”

When asked what the most valuable lesson she’s learned throughout her time in school and ministry, Winkler responded, “The most valuable thing I’ve learned is to be flexible in your school, your job, and your ministries. Getting comfortable while you’re walking with Christ is dangerous, because you never know when God will want to change something in your life.” She learned this through her departure from Alaska, saying, “Yes, Lord, I’ll move when you tell me to move and stay when you tell me to stay.”

Now that Winkler has accomplished her goal of being an English professor, she has long-term goals of pursuing her doctorate, publishing a developmental grammar textbook for Christian high schools and colleges, and working at the youth camp in Wasilla during the summer months. She is grateful for the support her family has always given her throughout her ministry and academic career and continues spending time with them whenever she can.


Charissa Veal is a senior English major at Truett-McConnell.

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