My full name is Jeffrey Keith Stiles, but everyone calls me "Keith." I am 32 years old having been born on a cold and snowy evening on December 16, 1968. I work at Western Carolina University as a social research associate in the Office of University Planning.   My job focuses around compiling the university fact book, answering external surveys, maintaining the office web page, maintaining the facilities database and other fun activities.  A couple of years ago I taught high school English and Spanish at Tuscola High School.  I must admit that I enjoyed the interaction with the young adults at the high school and feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to get to know them.  I also feel lucky to have worked with the principal at Tuscola.  He is a credit to our local school system.  However, my overall assessment of the Haywood County School System is less than positive.  The Central Office of this school system is led by a local superintendent of schools whose attitudes would fit well with the attitudes of Neanderthal man.  This type of situation is probably not uncommon in public school systems across the country, excellent teachers with their hands tied by feckless leadership.  Of course, I have now had a few years outside of the system to see the damage being done to our impressionable young minds.  It is truly disturbing to see a system that is more focused on doing well on the "tests" as opposed to actually teaching the students the joys that can be found in learning.  Add to that a local School Board populated with narrow-minded individuals who appear to believe that dropping foreign language classes from the elementary curriculum is simply an issue of money.  Wake up folks, learning a foreign language forces one to learn the structure of one's own language and its grammar!!  What better way to prepare students for those dreaded state-mandated end-of-course tests than to offer them the intellectual stimulus of learning a second language.

I am not married nor have I ever been married. I am a Southern Baptist, although I do not agree with everything that the Southern Baptist Convention is doing right now. Most especially, I find the threatened Disney boycott to be the most stupid move that the Convention has ever tried.

As far as my education is concerned, I received my first Bachelor's degree in 1991 (i.e., a BSBA with majors in Accounting and Economics). I also had a minor in English Literature. Two years later, I received an MBA with concentrations in Finance, Economics, and Computer Information Systems. I really enjoyed the two years that I spent in graduate school and almost went on for a Ph.D. in Economics. The deciding factor turned out to be a lack of funding by the college that accepted me for their program (i.e., Purdue University). In May of 1997, I completed requirements for a BA in English Literature with a teaching option.  I am now back in school working on an MA in English Literature. On January 19, 2001, I passed the "dreaded" comprehensive exams for my Master's degree in English Literature, four tests each lasting one hour and a half containing 10 identifications from works on reading lists and two essay questions.  My areas of concentration were Old/Middle English Period, 19th Century British Literature, Modern/Contemporary Literature, and Literary Criticism (ACH!  That last one was a killer.  Sorry Dr. Farwell!).  I will finish this program next fall and am currently writing my thesis on magic and Chaucer. I have received all three of my degrees from a small university nestled in the mountains of western North Carolina. Western Carolina University is a small, state-supported college in Cullowhee, NC with an enrollment just over 6,000 students. Over the last few years, the academic standards have been on the rise as the university attempts to raise its standing in the academic community.

I have a number of different hobbies that many of you might find interesting. I happen to love to read. Of course, who would not expect a prospective English teacher to love reading. However, my reading interests are eclectic to say the least. I like a smattering of all types of literature. For instance, I love to read novels written by Charles Dickens, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Nathaniel Hawthorne to name a few of the great authors of "classic" literature. In addition, I love to read a good scary novel, especially those written by Stephen King and Dean Koontz. I also love to read novels written in the fantasy genre. For example, one of my favorite fantasy series is the Lord of the Rings trilogy written by J. R. R. Tolkien. Recently, I have discovered that I enjoy science fiction novels as well. I really enjoy reading novels by Tepper and Stephenson. If you have never read a cyberpunk novel, such as William Gibson's Neuromancer, I highly recommend that you do so. Finally, I enjoy a broad range of nonfiction works as well. For instance, I like to read books written about politics and political figures, histories, philosophy, and other such "deep" books.

If my rather eclectic reading habits weren't enough for you, I also enjoy a wide range of different types of music. I like to listen to classical, alternative, rock, country, and jazz music. Some of my favorite classical composers include Beethoven, Vivaldi, Handel, and Bach. In addition, I love to listen to anything by REM or U2. (Did you catch the REM song in the movie Independence Day?) I also love such old standbys as Chicago, Billy Joel, etc. There's just nothing like a good song crooned by Joel! My country music interests are probably my shallowest since I only care for music by Dolly Parton and Randy Travis (how's that for an eclectic pair?). Finally, I was introduced to jazz music by the beautiful voice of Harry Connick, Jr. What a set of lungs on a young man!! From that first exposure, I have found that I enjoy many of the jazz classics as well!

Finally, my movie interest also range the spectrum of possible choices. I love movies from a host of different genres: horror, drama, comedy, animation, and foreign films. I also think those old black-and-white movies that so many people can't seem to stomach nowadays are just wonderful. I especially like those old film noir classics like The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca.

I'm sure you're all wondering how I got so many different interests! Well, to be perfectly honest, it has long been my goal to learn as much about as many different topics as possible. I believe that a truly well-educated person realizes that education is more than just being an expert in one's own field of study. Rather, a well-educated person will have a thirst for knowledge that never seems to be sated. As a result of this attitude many of my friends have nicknamed me "The Renaissance Man".

I also believe that we should enjoy each day of our life to the fullest never forgetting to stop and take a moment to see the beauty that surrounds us. Yes, I am an optimist and do not like seeing overly pessimistic attitudes in the people around me. We have too much cynicism in the world around us now. Having grown up in the mountains of western North Carolina, I feel lucky to have been surrounded by one of the most scenic and beautiful areas in the United States. I also think we have a duty to preserve such beauty across the United States. In other words, I'm an environmentalist who considers the Republican Party the most ridiculous group of looney tunes presently found on Earth!  And, while I'm going along with that train of thought, I might remind people that George Bush was not elected by the majority of the American voters as President of the United States.  He won because the Supreme Court in a 5-4 partisan decision stopped the legal recounts of the votes.  So, yes, this Gore delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles considers George "Dubya" Bush the illegitimate and eerily stupid resident of the Oval Office.  Don't worry, we'll get rid of him in 2004!

I am also a cat-person (sorry dog-people). My cat is named Shadow, a name that he earned by his stunning personality and a penchant for following me around like my shadow. I definitely pamper him too much; and, I believe that he thinks he's human. As such, I don't care for dogs at all (slobbery, dumb animals as far as I'm concerned).

I hope you've enjoyed my brief biography. But remember, I never promised that I was a stunningly exciting chap!