Home Features A Cuesta College professor’s personal approach to textbooks

A Cuesta College professor’s personal approach to textbooks

Cuesta College professor Anthony Koeninger, shown holding his 2018 Teaching Excellence awards. Photo by Cuesta College

College textbooks are a vital part of a student’s learning experience in class, one that some professors are trying to make more complementary to their specific teaching styles and subjects.

Often professors tailor their class and curriculum structures to primarily standardized textbooks. Some, such as Cuesta College history professor Anthony Koeninger, have worked to do the opposite, instead composing a textbook that fits his teaching style and course curriculum.

Koeninger has been teaching history for 38 years and has written three textbooks. Koeninger dedicated a total of 21 years to researching and composing the texts, working to ensure that their content was as engaging as possible and covered a large amount of material.

The shelves of the Cuesta College Library are lined with accessible textbooks. Photo by Nathan Moran

Koeninger injected a lot of his personality into the texts. Perhaps the most standout feature is his extensive inclusion of poetry relating to appropriate subject matter, all self composed.

“Some people think history and poetry are incongruent, but they’re not,” Koeninger said. “The poems are all grounded in footnotes and facts, and I hope students are more engaged because of them.”

Koeninger believes that the poems help students have a more passionate and emotional connection to the historical subject matter.

“It’s very focused, and he doesn’t pull his punches,” said Marcus Godfrey, a Cuesta College student who’s taken three history courses with Koeninger. “He moves fast, but he has no problem slowing down and going in depth. He’s very approachable and personable.”

According to Godfrey, the textbooks he’s had from Dr. Koeninger have been relatively short, but they’re very to the point. Godfrey also noted that the textbooks and class curriculum complement each other very well, with everything in the text being directly relevant to the classroom material.

“I’ve had good teachers in the past, but he was a favorite, he really loved the subject matter,” Godfrey said.

Some students may find issues with professors requiring the purchase of their own textbook for a class, but according to Koeninger he only receives around 10% of the profits from each book sold, with most of the money going to the publisher.

“It’s not something you do to get rich, it’s a passion project,” Koeninger said. “I’m honored at the opportunity to have written these books and my professional and personal life benefited deeply and was enriched by the 21 years of research I put into these books.”

Koeninger currently teaches history at Cuesta College. His textbooks, including “A Democracy of Ghosts: Poetic Patterns of Mexican-American Life,” “The Silent Kingdoms of Memory: Poetic Patterns of African-American Life” and “The Songs of Raucous Birds: Poetic Patterns of American Life,” are all available on Amazon’s bookstore and in the Cuesta College library.