Category Archives: Spring 2016

Shine for Everyone

Darcy Ebert
French Instructor

One day when my son was only in first grade, he stepped off of the bus and burst out crying!  His teacher had rolled her eyes at him in disapproval that morning and it broke his heart.   While feeling sad for him and angry with her, I also thought that I never want to be like that teacher!  The best practice in teaching is caring.

A teacher can make school be a bright moment in a student’s day, or a dreaded part of a student’s day.  I’ve always wanted to make a positive difference for the students. Community college students of all ages have feelings, varying levels of sensitivity, and should be treated with respect and enthusiasm by their instructors.  I strive toward this in each class.

In these 25 years, however, I’ve encountered some road bumps in my experiences that could make me grow weary.  This is where Coco enters!  Coco is my student, colleague, and was my teacher.  She has taken four of my French classes for personal enrichment, and I have taken one of hers. I’ve learned that she has been though some trying life experiences, yet strives to grow, improve, and take care of herself while also working hard at her job at LCC!  She inspires me in how she balances her personal and professional lives.  But the most inspirational thing is how she supports me as a colleague, while being my student.  I often thank the students for their efforts in practicing during class.  I think she appreciates the respect I show my students. She thanks me for my efforts in front of our class, which I greatly appreciate.  Then I will see a few heads bob in agreement, which really makes me feel good.  Coco is also kind in working with any student she is paired with.  I intend to inspire others the way she inspires me.

Coco probably has no idea how much she inspires me. But I know she is approximately my age, has raised children, and has a successful career teaching. She has been through a lot, yet still has the most positive, caring attitude. Coco realizes that each person has their struggles, and therefore treats each person with respect and kindness.  We don’t just want to treat students “fairly” as in the community college goals.  We want to treat them kindly and with enthusiasm and inspiration.  Through knowing Coco, I’ve advanced my goal to trying to be a bright spot in every person’s day (not just students’).  And this could make quite a difference, improving the quality of life, one person, one day at a time.

Remember, never roll your eyes!

My LCC Moment

by Ryan Skiera
Associate Professor, Business Administration

This is an experience I had with a student when I first arrived at Lansing Community College.  This was an older student, 40-ish, who was going to college for the first time.  When I first met her, she was very skinny (and to me she looked sickly), was very quiet and timid, and as I found out as the semester went on, was an excellent student.    As I do in all my classes, I broke this class up into groups at the beginning of the semester and throughout the semester got to know the students, including the 40-ish-year-old new student.

This same student slowly started to warm up to me and sometimes would even stay after class to talk.  As the semester went on, she started to tell me about what had happened in her home life.  She was in the process of getting a divorce from a person who, more and more, became a very controlling and verbally abusive individual.  One day, I could tell that something was off and she seemed distant, so after class she came up to chat.  That day, her divorce was final and she was talking about all the emotions that she was experiencing including relief, closure, and fear of the unknown, when she broke down and cried.

Not knowing what to do or say, I just sat there with her and let her cry.  Since I did not feel comfortable or qualified to give advice about her past, we started to talk about the future.  Over time, I reassured her that there were many opportunities and going to college was the right decision for it will assist her in reaching her goals.  After our conversation, she thanked me and told me that I am one of the few that has shown a concern for her, in and out of class, and that the future is not as daunting as it once seemed.  Along with this. she said she was determined to better herself in an effort to create a comfortable life for herself and her children.

I still wonder what happened with this student.  This experience showed me the impact that LCC and its representatives can have on the Lansing community.  I have learned that the community college student is much more diverse than the university’s and as such you are able to impact students and the community at a more intimate level.

Sometimes It Takes a While…

Susan Prinz Murphy
Reference Librarian

“Why do you always wear a dress, Mrs. Murphy?” asked the 8-year old girl who was all elbows, knees and pigtails.

In appropriate teacher manner, I responded with, “Why do you think?”

“Because you want to look pretty.”

“No,” I went on to explain that teaching was my job and that people dressed for work. This was a new idea for my second graders who did not have models for dressing for success.

One of a teacher’s roles is to open the eyes of their students to possibilities – and what was required to make those possibilities into realities.

Every year on MLK day, we dreamed. Each child drew what they dreamed to be and completed the prompt “I have a dream to be…” When they shared, I made a point of telling each child they were going to college – no matter what their career choice. Basketball player? You’re going to college. Police officer? Going to college. Doctor? Going to college for a very long time.

Fast forward ten years. As I put my Cheez-its on the grocery checkout, I looked once – then twice at the cashier. My eyes dropped to her name tag to be sure. It was my gangly second-grader. And she recognized me too.

I explained that I had become a librarian at LCC and asked what her plans were. She asked about my daughter and remembered the wardrobe conversation. I also told her that I had become a better teacher in the years after I had her and her classmates. She smiled and said, “We loved you.”

She told me she was planning to register at LCC for the upcoming semester. After the semester started, I asked her how it was going when I saw her. She hadn’t enrolled. The next semester, the same thing happened. And the next and the next.

Finally, she enrolled. I saw her in the library. We shared a warm hug. I asked about her semester. She was successful and had found her path and her passion. Ironically, it is fashion.

What have I learned about teaching from just this one student? Caring matters more than pedagogy. You need to build relationships. Being a role model is especially important to those who may have none. Part of a teacher’s job is to show students another world of possibilities. And sometimes you just need to keep after them.

 

Inspiration

Randy Paape
Assistant Professor of Accounting

Lynn was not one of my normal students.   She had scored in the top one percent on the SATs and came from a privileged family.  All indicators would be that she would be a very successful by now, but yet, at 26, she was in my intermediate accounting class, starting the process of changing her career from cutting hair to accounting.  At 19, she got involved in too much partying and made some poor decisions, and now she was trying to get her life back on track.

I have high expectations for all of my students.  I always try to inspire my students to reach for the stars.  In my class, Lynn excelled.  Though she entered the class unsure of her ability, she quickly set herself above her peers.  Lynn had a desire to succeed and embraced the challenges I put in front of her.  I quickly saw that she needed extra challenges, and I pushed her to perform above expectations.  At times I think she thought I was picking on her, but soon she was in my office asking for career advice.  Another instructor and I quickly convinced Lynn not to just settle for any accounting position, but to shoot for some of the more prestigious positions in the profession, which Lynn quickly embraced.

I never had Lynn as a student again, but I continued to advise her.  Lynn went on to win the Sells Award, which is an award for scoring in the top 3 percent in the nation on the CPA exam.  She also landed one of those prestigious positions, and today is considered one of the top five accountants in an organization that employs hundreds of accountants.

Last year, I ran into Lynn at an open house.  When she saw me enter, she quickly stood up and called me over to introduce me to her husband.  She said, “I want to introduce you to the person that is the reason I am who I am today.  He is the one that pushed me to achieve what I have achieved.”  For a teacher, this is the award which makes all the hard work worth it.  Though I know I am not the reason she is where she is today, it is nice to know that I helped provide the inspiration that gave her the motivation that helped lead to her success.

Words Can Hurt

By Linda Watkins
Adjunct Associate Professor

“I can’t”…. “I can’t do it,” she said with tears in her eyes. It was now a month into the class and she has finally come to office hours.  In the next few weeks, we worked on study skills and problem solving.  Each time we sat down to work she repeated the same comment.  ” I can’t…”

Most of our time was spent changing her view of what she was capable. It was frustrating that before we would even talk about how to answer a question she would already be shaking her head and saying, “I can’t”.   She wanted to be a nurse, but her high school teacher had told her she couldn’t do the coursework for Chemistry and Biology.  It has taken her years to gain the courage to take Chemistry. In an attempt to change her mindset, every time she said “I can’t,” she would have to repeat she could do it and that she loved Chemistry.  By the end of the semester, she would laugh and say, “Yes, I can do it, but I still don’t love Chemistry”.

A month ago, she was passing in the hallway, came to an abrupt stop and with a hug said “Thank you.” I looked at her blankly; I hadn’t seen her in a couple of years, and I had no clue why she was thanking me.  The thank-you was for teaching her to believe in herself.  She used the techniques I taught her and my belief in her to get through Anatomy/Physiology, doing well enough to become a tutor for the class.  From a student that would not talk in class, who constantly doubted herself, she had become a very self-possessed young lady.

Words can build or words can tear down. Her high school teacher was probably trying to give her realistic goals and did not understand the negative impact of his words. I was just trying to help her pass Chemistry.  I did not realize that the time I took to help her would change her life so much.  She reminded me to be careful how I express myself to other students.  She is not the only student who has come through my classes that, for one reason or another, struggles to complete the coursework.  It’s just that she had the courage to ask for help while others do not.  Talking to her and finding out the impact I had, shows me I need to take more time encouraging those students to get help.

Unexpected Student

Tami McDiarmid
Full-Time Faculty, Criminal Justice

I walked into the classroom feeling as I always did at the start of the semester; excited and overwhelmed.  I saw her at the back of the class sitting at the table in her very used coat and torn jeans. There was a hint of recognition in the back of my mind, but I couldn’t remember where I had seen her before.  And then she smiled at me and that toothless grin immediately reminded me where I knew her from.  She had been an inmate at the facility where I had spent my days working.

I was a part-time instructor and there was always a chance that instructing in my life’s work would intersect like this.  I admit I was more than a bit apprehensive.  Was I supposed to acknowledge where I knew her?  I didn’t want to embarrass her if she didn’t want anyone to know.  I needn’t have worried.  From that first day of class, Omay was forthright in letting the people in class know about her background.  Day after day during the semester, she would come up to me and let me know that it was her intent to show her grandchildren that she was going to make something of herself after all of the years that she spent addicted to drugs.  Her goal, I remember her telling me, was to become a substance abuse counselor, to help others get off drugs as she finally had.

I assigned the class a research paper as a final assignment of the semester.  I explained that it could be on any topic in the corrections field.  I knew Omay would struggle with this, and indeed she did.  Many times she approached me with rough drafts and asked for my help in correcting the grammar she knew was bad.  Patiently I would assist her and let her figure out for herself better ways to express this thought or write that sentence.  By the time the paper was due, she handed in her paper with a toothless grin.  I remember reading and grading and proudly giving her a well-deserved B.  She was truly appreciative of that and told me that she had always considered me a fair and respectful officer and know she considered me a patient and caring teacher.  That was the last class I had with Omay.

I was part-time and many of the students I had in the one class I taught, I never saw again. But for that one semester, Omay taught me that it’s never too late to change your life’s path.

From LCC to PhD

Sharon Huff
Adjunct Faculty, Religious Studies

Of all my students in community college, Nate is among the most impressive. An older student, although only in his early 30’s, Nate is in his second go-around of college. The first round ended badly and he has in the past decade sorted out his beliefs and come to a sense his own personhood. Raised a Methodist, Nate is currently a practitioner of Buddhism, in that religion, having found the peace that he was missing.

I’ve had Nate in two of my religion classes, and in both he has shared his upbringing and difficulty with self-acceptance. Growing up in a small town near Lansing, he had questions and concerns with regard to religion but these were never taken seriously, nor was he allowed to express them. He grew up doubting his own perceptions and experienced depression and anxiety. He spent a few years at Saginaw Valley State College, but because of depression and substance abuse he ended up leaving.

Today as a student at LCC, Nate has virtually nothing in terms of material possessions. He lives in a communal style home with 20 roommates, he has no car, few possessions, and only a few sets of clothes. His primary love is books and he has an extensive collection of them.

Nate loves learning about religion. At LCC he is a religious studies major and has taken every religion class offered. In both classes I’ve taught his work has been the golden standard. Not only does he do well in class, he is extremely well versed in religion. His collection of primary religious books is both impressive and extensive. He frequently brings books for me to peruse, which are extremely in-depth and heavily theological. He is currently wading through Everyman’s Talmud, a very deep and not so engaging commentary on the Talmud. I would be lucky to get through a couple of pages before mental fatigue would set in, yet Nate continues to plow through this and other books with a thirst for knowledge that is unsurpassed by any other student I’ve taught.

Nate’s goal is to obtain a PhD in Religious Studies. It is heartening to see a motivated student with high goals who has been given the opportunity to study something he loves in a place he can afford. LCC has handed him a second chance to achieve his aspirations.

Go beyond yourself

Kim Wathen, M.S.
Physical Fitness & Wellness Faculty

“Sandra”, an older student, sat in the back corner of my classroom with her laptop open and rarely spoke during class.  She was present for all class periods and always seemed attentive.  I was surprised that her quiz scores were low and shocked when she disrupted class.

After speaking with “Sandra” about her quiz scores, I made accommodations for her to take her quizzes in a separate room so that distractions would be minimized for her.  She told me that any discussion before the test caused her to “lose everything from her head”.

The disruption was caused when “Sandra” insisted that a fellow student had a contagious health condition and should leave the class.  Although the fellow student left the class in tears, “Sandra” left as well.  When I returned to my classroom after walking the upset student to the office, I learned that “Sandra” had argued with several classmates while I was out.  Speaking with administrators, I learned that she was known for causing issues in several classes.

After the next class period, I learned that she was very stressed over another class which required a lot of writing.  Due to a learning disability, she was forced to first write, then type her work.  I spent 90 minutes researching online and then teaching her how to use voice to text on her laptop so that she no longer had to write before typing.  She cried when we figured this out and thanked me many times.  At that point, my heart softened toward her and I felt much compassion for her.

Helping this student research and learn to utilize voice to text was a growing experience for me as well because I was able to overlook the problems she had caused and give her a tool that would empower her and change her world.  I was thankful and blessed that I had taken time that no one else had.

The Heart of Hamida

Katrina Steinsultz
Associate Professor

My initial impression of Hamida at orientation was not favorable.  Hamida did not project confidence, and she was terrified of offending me or of making mistakes.  My hospital, where I was a supervisor in the Diagnostic Imaging department, looked upon humility as a weakness.  I feared for her ability to survive and navigate the brutal and high-stress environment.  But as I observed her that day, I noticed tiny clues that indicated there was more to Hamida behind a hasty judgement: an accent that indicated foreign birth, a calmness that comes from those who have seen much and spoken little, and a hajib that challenged diversity.

Over time, Hamida revealed herself as a strong woman of fierce determination.  She graduated with honors, but did not pass the ARRT registry.  She called me for help.  I could hear the disappointment and emotional struggle in her voice, including the swallowed lump of pride.  Determined, we started reviewing everything.  Along the way, our preceptor-student relationship evolved into a friendship.   I learned that Hamida was a refugee, surviving a genocide in Rwanda.  Her father and twin brothers were killed in the room next to her as she escaped her house.  Later, she fled an abusive husband, traveling to France and ultimately to the United States with her two young daughters.  She has lived here for years, adapting to a new country while providing for a stable home and education for her daughters.  After ten weeks of intensive study and conversation, Hamida passed the registry.  A few weeks later, she was hired full-time at a medical clinic which provided a substantial boost in income.  My inner advocate cheered with fulfillment.  I had helped someone get to a better place.

My blood runs with the need to help others, which is why I entered the medical field.  In the last several years, that need has gone unfulfilled.  When Hamida shared her unshakable faith in the graciousness of God and in the kindness of people, she showed me a new way to help people—through education.  When a job opportunity arose to work and teach at LCC, I applied and was hired.  I have obtained a new sense of purpose, and revolutionary life change.  I am happier and healthier than I have been in years.  Hamida taught me that I can complete my life mission to help others.  Hamida, the humble student, became my extraordinary teacher.

We All Know “Joe”.

by Chuck Page
Reference and Instruction Librarian

I wasn’t expecting Joe. I must have been expecting one of those college students with a specific assignment and a need to tick the proper boxes in order to get a 4.0. To be honest, I had worked with students very much like Joe during my time teaching elementary and middle school in the public school district. Now I was meeting a more grown up version in a different setting.

Joe is one of those students that doesn’t mirror many people’s image of the typical college student. He doesn’t dress like the other students. He wears his own version of professional clothing; a shirt and tie topped with a Fedora. He shows signs of having learning challenges of some sort. One might guess that he has encountered his share of roadblocks during his educational career. He is motivated, wants to learn, and has goals, but something is special in him. Now he is standing on the opposite side of the library’s large reference desk and he needs my help.

Librarians are taught that a proper reference interview involves asking open ended questions, listening, and encouraging patrons to lead the interaction. This could not be more true than with Joe. In spite of this, he is ambitious. Joe enjoys sharing each new project with me. His presentation on Martin Luther King, Jr. was all encompassing in the weeks before its due date. Soon after, he wanted my input on his personal website. Even though he didn’t really want traditional reference help, just the simple act of taking a look and making a few comments gave him the validation he needed. The library started to become a second home to Joe. He knew everyone’s name and made it a point to speak to everyone when he visited. There were certainly times when it seemed as though Joe didn’t really need any assistance. He just wanted a place to be; a place that was comfortable and familiar. It seemed like that place was the Library. Joe became part of the Library.

Then he was gone. Of course, the expectation for college students is graduation and moving on to a new chapter of life. I like to think that Joe is finding success and happiness in that next chapter. Not much time to reflect, because there is another “Joe” waiting for help.