Committed to inclusion

Liberal Arts professor works to improve herself and her community

Sara Mallory, Campus Life Editor


Professor Helen Ditouras is a professional driven by her past to constantly look towards the future. Ditouras has taught English as a full-time faculty member for 17 years. She joined Schoolcraft in 2006, and has worked constantly to keep her course curriculum both relevant and accessible to students of all international, racial, ethnic and multilingual backgrounds.

“If we look at the community at large, it’s important we [as teachers] can serve our students across their needs and differences as well,” said Ditouras. “To me it’s something that we should always be doing, and striving to improve our capacity for our students.”

In terms of relevancy, she has spent the last year developing a new series of “Ready to Teach” courses that update online course content for English 102 and Humanities 212. 

“When I was thinking about creating a theme for [English 102], I knew I wanted to introduce students to a topic that would be relevant across every possible personal, academic and professional difference,” said Ditouras. “I selected the theme of food, and the reason I picked this is, well, everyone needs sustenance to survive. But, I also found that by picking such a broad theme students could tailor it to some research topics around more personalized interests.”

As for Humanities 212, which is Mass Media and Popular Culture, she based the entire course around critically acclaimed HBO Max series “The Wire” which is a show that examines the themes of institution and bureaucracy, while also commenting on racism, poverty, social injustice, law enforcement, police brutality, homelessness and addiction.

“I find that in the safe space of a classroom environment be it online, face-to-face or remote students are able to explore some of these themes that not only inspired their critical thinking capacities but also gives them an opportunity to disclose how they feel about these issues and where they see the intersection of some of these issues in society at large,” said Ditouras.

In regards to accessibility, she ensures that her classes are worth the entry fee. 

In 2019, she spent a summer teaching at a women’s correctional facility where her ideas of accessibility and relevance were challenged. In order to even enter the facility only a limited amount of teaching supplies could be brought, and no technology was allowed. Without her usual teaching tools, she had to be incredibly creative and conscious about how she would engage her students at a classroom level.

Her biggest task was working with students to shift their mindsets, and help them work through their psychological and psychosocial difficulties of how they perceive themselves. A positive perception and mental space gave her students the motivation they needed to continue forward despite obvious difficult circumstances. She encouraged her students to shift their mental space and accept that for a certain number of hours, they were not inmates, but college students that were a source of profound growth that any student can learn from.

“Watching my students grow and re-enroll in classes with other faculty was such a source of inspiration for me and I honestly think I learned more than I contributed to my students. And that is the gift that I will always be grateful for.”

Spending her time in the women’s correctional facility is just one of many things Ditouras takes with her as she strives for constant improvement. Increasing accessibility and equity has been something that hits close to home. 

“I [am] a child raised by immigrant parents, I [am] bilingual, and issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, access were very important to me on a personal level. And again being a first generation college student myself these were always issues not only I was thinking about as a college 

student myself but also looking at how it impacts my college students at a personal level.”

In 1970, Ditouras’ parents departed from Greece and arrived on Ellis Island, where they took a bus to Windsor, Ontario and raised Helen and her siblings.

Ditouras’s childhood was rooted in the cultural conclave that is Windsor’s Greek community. Starting in kindergarten, she attended Greek language classes every week, as well as weekly religious sermons held in Greek at her local Orthodox church. Her connection to Greece was expanded by routine visits to Greece and her large extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

“That was a part of my upbringing and that shaped how I thought about differences, especially ethnic differences. That was my reality,” said Ditouras.

Due to her background, she has always sought professional and personal growth by being involved in her community. She has previously worked as a board member for Michigan’s Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, and also as a staff member of the Schoolcraft’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force (DEI), and as the Co-Chair of the college’s International Institute.

As a board member of the DEI she works with Director Taquilla Kusero, Research Assistant Catreese Bell-Qualls, and other supporting staff members to create educational seminars and panels dedicated to engaging Schoolcraft’s diverse community on co-curricular level. The current focus of the DEI is the creation of the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access (IDEA) team. Which has now hired full time members to continuously work towards bettering DEI at Schoolcraft.

In regards to the International Institute, she works with Co-Chair Colleen Pilgrim to oversee the Global Indorsement Scholarship, and hosting the Multicultural Fair. Additionally, she serves as the Focus Series Coordinator where she works to create educational series and programming at a co-curricular level.

Professional growth and aspirations

DEI will always be at the forefront of professional growth for Ditouras. She dedicates herself to continuously seeking out ways to better her involvement as a member of the DEI, and a member of the community. Currently she looks forward to attending a series of training through Columbia University on educational displacement theory: an area of interest she is looking to expand her knowledge on.

As for a long-term goal, she would like to do more work at the correctional level. Which, according to Ditouras, “is by far the most rewarding experience in my entire teaching career.”