Sam Pierstorff

Sam Pierstorff
Professor - English
Literature and Language Arts
Founders Hall 220H


Sam Pierstorff teaches English composition, creative writing (poetry), screenwriting (when it's offered), film appreciation (when he can), and assorted literature classes (mostly Adolescent Lit, Short Story & Novel, and Introduction to Poetry). Sam Pierstorff received his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from CSU Long Beach and went on to become the youngest Poet Laureate ever appointed in the state of California when he was selected to the position in 2004 by the city of Modesto where he currently teaches at Modesto Junior College. He is the founding editor of Quercus Review Press and creator of The Ill List, California’s most prestigious poetry slam competition. His debut poetry collection, Growing Up in Someone Else’s Shoes, was published by World Parade Books in 2010, and most recently, he co-edited More Than Soil, More Than Sky: The Modesto Poets, which launched to #1 on Amazon's Poetry Best Seller list upon its release.  In addition to writing and publishing, he has also been a competitor on NBC’s American Ninja Warrior (Seasons 6 & 9), certifying him as the world’s first #NinjaPoet.


As a performance poet himself, Sam Pierstorff won UC Merced's Grand Slam championship in April 2013, the Rogue Festival Poetry Slam in 2015, and placed first in The Valley Talent Project's "Specialty Act" category sponsored by the Gallo Theater in 2016. He has published more than 200 poems in literary journals including RattleClarion Review, Slipstream, and in many others, and he has published online at The Huffington Post and The Normal School. In 2014, his autobiographical story about growing up Muslim in America was selected as the opening piece in an anthology called Salaam, Love (Beacon Press) and he was subsequently invited to Harvard University to perform his work. He continues to write in his free time, chipping away at three novel manuscripts. His fiction is represented by The Writers House, NYC.

In 2015, he was selected to work as a "Teaching Artist" as part of The Gallo Center for the Arts' "Creativity at the Core" program and has conducted poetry workshops and teacher trainings for the Stanislaus County Office of Education After-school and "RoadTrip" programs, which serve disadvantaged and underrepresented students. Each March, he hosts a poetry slam for kids as part of the State Theater's Youth Education Program and is invited regularly to present his own work at colleges and universities including Harvard, University of the Pacific, UC Merced, CSU Stanislaus, Sierra Nevada College, and elsewhere.

When he is not teaching or writing, he swims with the Modesto Area Aquatic Club, runs Spartan races, and trains at his ninja warrior home course. Born to a Syrian mother and an American soldier, he is originally from southern California where he graduated college valedictorian in 1997 from California State University Long Beach and went on to receive his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing in 1999 before coming to Modesto Junior College in 2000. He is married to one of Stanislaus County's Most Outstanding Women (True story: She has an award to prove it!), and they have three awesome children together.

In his composition classes, he often focuses on issues of gender, pop culture, and social concepts of masculinity and femininity as he prepares students to write, read, think critically, and research. 

Courses I Teach


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