By Gabriella Miller
The first feature you may notice is his height. Standing at about 6 feet 5 inches, he’s usually taller than most.
Next you may notice his clothing. The rolled sleeves of his denim button-up perfectly mirror the pant legs of his gray trousers. A pair of sunglasses and a smile complete the look.
This is Stephen Caldes, one of the two new tenure-track faculty hires for Chico State’s Department of Journalism and Public Relations.
“This is a great experience because I feel I get to really figure out what I want to teach and how I want to affect my students on the whole,” he said.
Caldes was born and raised in Westfield, Mass., a small town 100 miles west of Boston he says has as many cows as people. He left at the age of 18 to attend Clemson University in South Carolina.
He previously taught courses within the Department of Journalism and Public Relations, but he was not a part of the tenure-track faculty. His new position offers more job security and an opportunity to explore new teaching ideas and styles.
Upon seeing the position advertised in January, Caldes was nervous, but jumped at the opportunity.
“I thought ‘this looks perfect for me,’” he said. “They’re looking for someone with a lot of lower-division writing experience...I’m gonna gun for this job.”
The months-long process involved multiple interviews and a presentation where he had to create a lesson plan on video storytelling. In the end, he was offered the position and made the transition as a full-time faculty member in August.
As part of an introduction to his new role, Caldes was photographed for a Chico State gallery that highlighted new faculty and staff for the year. The premise was to write on a chalkboard the answer to the prompt “Why I teach.” Caldes wrote “to motivate, to connect, to awaken.”
“It doesn’t say ‘to lecture.’ It doesn’t say ‘to hear my own voice,’” he said. “I really just want to spark some interest in my students; writing is all about curiosity.”
His own curiosity and passion evolved over the years through his experience in various jobs—both of the academic and peculiar kind.
Caldes taught multiple college courses at University of Colorado, Boulder, but he was also a doorman at a complex in San Diego. He’s been a fishmonger and he’s picked tobacco, but his passion is teaching. He takes further inspiration from his past educational experiences.
“I had a professor my freshman year who was wild," he said. "It was a freshman composition class, but we were writing anything and everything that came to her mind. It wasn’t the structure that I had came away from in high school. I want to create that sort of environment as much as I can for my students too.”
Caldes is teaching JOUR 130i, “Writing for Public Audiences”; JOUR 255i, a writing intensive version of JOUR 255; and JOUR 325, “Magazine Writing.” He serves as the department’s lower-division writing coordinator and will teach JOUR 130i every few semesters to stay involved with incoming students.
“I like to stay engaged with freshmen—I think they’re so wide-eyed,” he said. “They don’t know what college is and so [I] get to be in control of sort of defining college for them a little bit.”
In his free time, Caldes enjoys cooking and said he’s a great home cook. It’s a form of expression, and figuring out what to cook, what ingredients to use and how to plate the final dish allows him to stretch his creativity. He also reads, writes and watches films and documentaries along with “the occasional crappy reality show.”
Passion is a main focus for Caldes in his teaching. He thinks that no matter the subject, it’s one of the most important aspects. He hopes to impart on his students that learning should never stop.
“If you're not constantly curious and trying to quench that curiosity with information and experience, you're going to be bored as hell,” he said. “And if you have nothing you're passionate about—nothing you're constantly learning more about—you're going to bore the hell out of other people as well.”