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Breta Stoneman, adjunct pro­fessor of rhetoric and public address, joined Hillsdale’s faculty spring semester.
Stefan Kleinhenz | Col­legian

When Breta Stoneman switched her major from jour­nalism to rhetoric, she never imagined that the decision would introduce her to her future husband and her future teaching col­league.

Stoneman, an adjunct pro­fessor of rhetoric and public address, joined the Hillsdale faculty this semester. She was drawn to Hillsdale because it was a place that har­bored com­munity, family, and a channel for her to pursue her passion.

Stoneman received her under­graduate degree from the Uni­versity of Min­nesota. As a young college student she was ini­tially inter­ested in studying jour­nalism, but after an intro­ductory course in rhetoric, her heart turned.

“I changed my major and never looked back,” she said. “For me, rhetoric was a new way to see the world.”

At the Uni­versity of Pitts­burgh, she earned her Ph.D in rhetoric and met her husband Ethan. After he fin­ished a teaching job at the Vir­ginia Mil­itary Institute, the couple moved to Hillsdale so he could take up an assistant teaching position.

Now, Ethan Stoneman isn’t the only Dr. Stoneman at Hillsdale College.

Breta Stoneman spent the fall semester auditing rhetoric classes and was hired this semester as a part-time lec­turer. She teaches Inter­per­sonal Com­mu­ni­cation and the core class Clas­sical Logic & Rhetoric, a course her husband also teaches.

“It’s com­forting; it feels like the same-old,” said Ethan Stoneman of his wife joining the rhetoric and public address department.

Teaching as col­leagues isn’t new for the Stonemans. It’s actually how they met. The couple taught together during graduate school and often paired up for group projects. Ethan recounts his first impression of Breta: com­fortable, argu­men­tative, and well-con­nected.

“I was both impressed by her and intim­i­dated by her,” Ethan Stoneman said.

After Breta Stoneman fin­ishes her lec­tures at the college, her day of teaching has only just begun. She goes home to another set of stu­dents — except they call her “mom.”

Breta and Ethan share home­schooling duties of their three children. When Breta teaches at the college in the morning, Ethan stays home with the kids, and then they trade roles for the afternoon.

“It saves on babysitting costs,” Ethan said. He paused, then chuckled. “And I love my children.”

Breta Stoneman expressed the impor­tance of striking the balance between home­schooling and teaching. Her lesson plans and con­ver­sa­tions change depending on where she is teaching.

“I have to remember I’m talking to adults when I’m on campus and to children at home,” she said.

But she said coming back to the classroom has been special.

“It’s exciting to transfer my passion of rhetoric to the stu­dents, showing them all of the doors it can open from phi­losophy, religion, jour­nalism, and pol­itics,” Breta Stoneman said.

She also expressed how much she loves going home to their three little kids and two not-so-little New­found­lands, but still being able to con­tinue the pas­sionate con­ver­sa­tions about rhetoric with her husband.

“Even my five year old con­tributes to the con­ver­sa­tions because she hears what we say, and she ben­efits from the clas­sical edu­cation we teach at home,” she said.

Ethan agreed, saying they share a lot of interests, and that common framework allows them to discuss and have friendly argu­ments about ideas. But some­times, he says, his wife wants to get out of that mode.

“She tells me to stop talking and just watch the show,” Ethan Stoneman said. “Some­times she’ll even analyse how I talk to her and how I make an argument, and then use it as an example in class.”

Kiara Freeman, a sophomore majoring in rhetoric and public address, is a student of both Breta and Ethan Stoneman. Freeman expressed her excitement to be a part of Breta Stoneman’s Inter­per­sonal Com­mu­ni­cation class.

“She’s really inviting and quick to bring in examples that are per­sonal and rel­evant. Because of that I think the stu­dents are receptive to that and engage with the material more per­sonally,” Freeman said.  

With this dis­tinct per­spective on both of the Stonemans, Freeman pro­vided some insight on them, saying they are both kind and easy­going and have a similar sense of humor that makes their classes com­fortable.

A year ago there was no Stoneman on Hillsdale’s campus, but now two occupy the fourth floor of Kendall Hall. Sharing an office isn’t a big deal for two pro­fessors who already share their lives.