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.