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Joe Chianakas: Inclusivity in the Classroom

From teacher’s desk by day to writer by night, Illinois Central College Communication instructor Joe Chianakas can do it all. His upcoming book, Singlets and Secrets, is a romance where two high school students battle for their love.

Joe taught at the high school level before joining ICC in 2011. He soon realized he wanted his students to be successful both inside and outside the classroom.

Joe shares, “The person that I want to be is one that can help others find their way out of darkness and into joy.”

Joe has taught communication at Bradley, Southern New Hampshire University, Illinois Valley Community College, Colorado Technical College, Vista College, and ICC. His passion for teaching makes it easy to communicate and develop a connection with his students.

He added, “We have a great group of communication professors here at ICC with diverse experiences. They are all really interested in their students’ lives and making their lives successful.”

In the classroom, Joe desires to be a professor that also advocates for inclusivity. ICC has students from all walks of life. Being part of the LGBTQ+ community, Joe sees himself in many of them. His teachings encourage learning from intercultural relationships to promote kindness to all.

Joe commented, “I had to ask myself what kind of teacher I would have wanted when I was struggling the most. I want the confidence to say we’re not just going to tolerate diversity; we’re going to respect it.”

ICC’s diverse student base also motivates Joe to reflect inclusivity in his writing. He strives to embrace the uniqueness in his books and classes. His digitally published books, Rabbit in Red, a horror series, and Singlets and Secrets, a romance novel, both include significant representation of the LGBTQ+ community in the main cast.

He states, “I was inspired to represent the LGBTQ+ community because I didn’t want a story where the community was represented by the main character who was straight or the gay character who needed to be ‘rescued’. I wanted the gay characters to rescue themselves, to learn how to be strong for themselves, physically, emotionally, and mentally.”

Joe’s experience with and passion for communication and inclusivity are a skillset that he believes can be utilized in any career opportunity. Whether in teaching or in writing, the inclusion of others is what makes a positive environment that allows innovation to flourish. Communication classes can be an outlet for inclusive environments to collaborate with others and learn from their experiences.

Joe states, “Studying communication sets you up for career options that cannot be replaced by technology or AI. Look at what you’re passionate about or what interests you, and if you learn how to connect, network, or get internships a communication degree can take you there.”

Singlets and Secrets is releasing in print in Spring 2023. Visit his website www.joechianakas.com for more information.

Students can learn more about the Communications Program in the ICC catalog.

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