Category Archives: Spring 2019

Incentive Can Be Everything

Erik Schachterle
Automotive Technologies

I had been teaching high school for several years when I began to question if it was the best profession for me. School had started again. I covered all the basic automotive information as usual. I tried to be excited about the material, but I was as bored as my class seemed to be.

One day after class, a student approached me. AJ always hid in the back of the room with his head down. He had decent test scores and an overall B- grade. AJ very abruptly said, “I need to do better in class.” He then told me that his girlfriend was pregnant and when he told his parents they kicked him out. He said he wanted to be responsible and didn’t want to drop out of school. “What do I need to do to get a good job?” he asked.

I told him our brakes section would begin soon and this would be his opportunity to earn a state license. He said “That’s not soon enough, what can I do now?” I had never witnessed a student demonstrate such initiative, it had shocked me. He said, “Can I retake any quizzes? I know I can get a better grade.” I allowed it and we scheduled retakes starting the following day. He scored exceptionally well on his retakes and his grade jumped from a B- to an A-. The following marking period he started to become a leader in the classroom. He volunteered for customer work and helped others complete their assignments.

Soon after, I was in a local automotive parts store and saw a posting for an evening position. I shared the information with AJ. He applied for the position and was hired immediately. He began working full time in addition to attending school. I expected his grades would fall, but he impressively balanced his work and school responsibilities.

AJ passed the state test. He was upset by his score, I assured him a pass is a pass and that was all he needed. He took his license to work and immediately received a raise.

I still see AJ occasionally. He used to thank me for the support I’d given him every time we’d run into each other. But now we just shake hands and catch up. He is now the manager of the same parts store and has a beautiful little girl nicknamed “Bean”.  Goes to show that incentive can be everything.


Connect 4 Learning

Bridget Osborn
Child Development

When working with preschoolers, I found that if I connected with them, they were eager to come to school, were motivated to learn and developed a love for learning. Connect 4 Learning is the title of a new, early childhood curriculum being piloted in local Michigan preschools. Titles often give us insight into the prominent theme. This title is no exception. Not only is it a clever title for a curriculum, but it now serves as inspiration for me when working with students of any age.

Thinking back on my time as a student, the educators that I remember were the ones who connected with me as an individual. They took interest in my learning but also showed interest in my goals, hobbies, activities outside of school, my family and my friends. They viewed me as more than just a learner. They made me feel like I mattered as an individual. For this reason, I worked harder and wanted to succeed. Failing the course would have felt like failing someone I had connected with. I connected with the educator, and as a result, I learned. I learned more in classes when I connected with the instructor than when I had not.

This semester, I learned that the college students I work with thrived when they connected with me. Being a first-time community college instructor, I used my background as an administrator to guide how I worked with students. I shared my wealth of experiences and expertise. Yet, I felt that students only listened. I felt no connection, and I am sure they did not either. Whether they were learning or not was not evident. After a guest speaker shared his wisdom with our Transforming Learning Through Teaching class, I tried connecting with students before sharing my experiences and expertise to guide their learning. I worked to become like one of the educators I remembered from my schooling.

Like those educators from long ago, I noticed a change when I connected with my students. Questions were asked. Conversations blossomed. Skill growth became evident as our time together progressed. It became clear that to help my students succeed and receive a high-quality education, I needed to connect with them as much as I needed to teach them. I will take the time to connect with them for their learning, to motivate them and feed a love for learning; much like my preschoolers. It sounds so simple, yet it is extraordinarily powerful.

Addressing Learning Difficulties in Math by teaching with UDL

Don Eckford 

My first encounter with M, was at his 2nd attempt at Math 121.   I am very interested in the goals of students and where they plan to transfer after finishing their time at LCC.  M was interested in animation and programming.  There was a direct connection with mathematics as part of a tool kit of animation effects.  I found much to talk about with M and because of this frequent interaction, I began to see some faults to his approach to learning.

I was invested in why M was very successful with assigned homework problems but unsuccessful with exams.    Was it a memory problem? M had a lot of trouble speaking or writing the steps he would use to solve a problem.  As I encourage all of my students to come to tutoring, I was able to get to the bottom of the problem quickly.  M was using pictures of his old homework problems and the solutions to just write down the answers without thinking about the issues involved in problem solving.  Obviously this had to stop and I admonished M as much.

Our proposed solution was to practice the steps to problem solving.  I worked with M at the Learning Commons to guide him through the problem-solving process so he could get stronger at problem solving.  But, it would take continually applying the same steps for him to be successful.  had issues with trusting the process and often fell back into old bad habits.

I asked M to write short essays of how to solve each week’s problems and post them to a discussion forum.   This allowed M to see the reasons behind the algebraic steps and document his knowledge.  I used group work so that M would see his peers solve various types of problems.   My goal was to have M see that his peers were actively solving the questions following key steps: Defining variables, drawing pictures, using known relationships to write down equations, using unit analysis, then applying algebraic rules to isolate the unknown variable.  did well here but his exams still showed a panic and guessing structure.  Unfortunately, M had other issues which resulted in him not passing the class, but he remains positive and active in attending the Learning Commons and studying in groups.


Finding Purpose

Dr. Carlotta S. Walker
Assistant Professor of Management and Leadership

As a former non-traditional student, who happened to be the age of the traditional undergraduate student, I have a profound understanding of what it means to be a non-traditional student like many of those who walk the campus of LCC.  Although I attended Central Michigan University on a full-tuition scholarship at the age of 19, my life was very different than that of my peers.  When I entered CMU in 2003 as a freshman, I was not only the mother of a three-year old little girl, but I was also engaged to be married.

As it would happen, we found out that we were pregnant with our second daughter during my freshman year.  To my abject horror, she was due to be born during the week of midterms in the next academic year! Luckily, I only took classes that were required for my major.  I say “luckily” because without those wonderfully caring and compassionate professors, I would not be typing this open essay to you.  My professors did not look at me as a lost cause or charity case.  Their expectations were not lowered for me. They treated me as they did all of the other students in the class while also being supportive and nurturing.  This is who I strive to be for my students.

My experience during that hectic semester in fall of 2004 had a significant impact on the way in which I approach my role as a professor at LCC.  I see myself in many of my non-traditional students.  Whether it be the single mom or the lifelong learner that decides to finish up the degree that they started 30 years ago.

One student that helped me understand the importance of teaching and learning was Joann.  Joann had already earned a baccalaureate degree but was considering a career change.  Joan started taking courses at LCC in hopes that she would find her “passion”.  It was during her time in one of my human resources classes that she found that passion. She knew that human resource management was the perfect discipline for her.

Throughout the course, she would stay after class and discuss career options and current events involving HRM.  Towards the end of the course, Joann shared with me that she would take the “leap of faith” and apply to graduate schools.  I was so proud to write a letter of recommendation for her.  She is now finishing up the first year of her graduate program and is set to start a summer internship with a Fortune-500 company.  I still try to serve as a mentor to Joann and have invited her to speak to other students who are still searching for their “passion”.

My goal is to help students work to their potential while also being supportive, nurturing, and FIRM.  My expectations for each student are that they leave my class with not only a deeper understanding of the subject matter but a sense of accomplishment.  I hope that my personal story will inspire them to achieve their goals whether it is to find the career that they are passionate about, start a business, obtain an upwardly mobile job, or finish something started a quarter-century ago.


A New Start

Paul Homrich
Assistant Professor, Advanced Manufacturing Technologies

There are people whom you meet that can drive you to change your perspective. A chance meeting can cause oneself to reflect on a possible new direction and inspire a career. It happened in the fall of 1999 when my life changed. I decided to return to college and complete a degree after my then-spouse decided to leave me with my two daughters. I felt compelled to return to college so I could set both a good example for my children and provide for them financially.

It was in MECH150 (Advanced Machining) that I caught my stride in education and began a new path in my life. The professor realized very quickly that I was over-qualified for the class and approached me to ask that I be his class assistant rather than student. I was assigned to the CNC (Computerized Numerical Control) area which matched up with my work experience and it was within this group of advanced students that I met Dennis.

Dennis was an excellent machinist but lacked CNC experience. Once we began working in the automated machining area he gravitated to me quickly with a strong desire to learn this new technology. Dennis was a stand out. He had a desire to learn and wanted to know how to apply this new knowledge. We decided that to understand, program, set-up and run a CNC machine we needed to create something not done before at the College.

In what became an entire new curriculum it was decided to make a product. We began by designing a Chess Set, complete. What drove Dennis and I was the effort and collaboration. Our class time went fast. 4-hour classes seemed to disappear and seldom seemed long enough for the task.

It was this first teaching moment that drove my career path. I successfully completed my degree and began teaching at work and created a company curriculum for new employees to follow.

I can only imagine how many chess sets have been made since that time in class. I do know they are still a highlight of the advanced CNC program. Dennis and I are friends to this day. We often talk about that time in college and he credits me with his success not only in that class, but in his career overall. My ongoing inspiration, the drive to teach, improve others, and continual excitement in learning all stem from this early college experience. I have run into many other “Dennis” types since that time, I can only hope to inspire them in the same dramatic way as my career progresses and prospers.

No Student Left Behind

Bridget Cooper
Adjunct Instructor, Japanese

A few summers ago, I had a student in my online eight-week Japanese class, whom I’ll call “Nay”. From day one Nay was behind in the class and managed to stay behind throughout the class.  I had no doubt about her enthusiasm for Japanese, which she expressed in her many discussion board posts. She even wanted to apply for a study abroad program in Japan. However, Nay was overloaded with a second job plus family obligations. As she explained in an email, “It just seems like there are not enough hours in the day lately.” I was very worried that she wouldn’t make it through this quite challenging class, which included a heavy assignment load. I sent her over 18 emails during the eight weeks, reminding her to keep up and answering her questions. I also referred Nay to a success coach and checked in with the coach periodically.

I continued to encourage Nay to keep at it, although at times wondered if she would be able to catch up. I allowed all the students to turn in late work but deducted 20% off the top. Nay wrote midway through the class, “I feel kind of like Dory from Finding Nemo, ‘Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…’ I know it’s temporary – that’s what keeps me going. It’s like a workout mentality; finish strong!”

At the end of the class, Nay was able to get a final grade of 3.0, and both her success coach and I were very proud of her. Nay and I learned valuable lessons from each other. I learned from Nay, that if I kept encouraging my students and replying to their questions quickly, then they would have a better chance of completing the class successfully.  Nay also learned a valuable lesson, which she expressed in one of her final emails to me, “Lesson learned: I will never take two summer classes while working two jobs – ever again. At least this course has been fun – thanks for making it awesome!”

Soon after the class ended, Nay wrote back, asking if I would consider writing a letter of recommendation for her to participate in a study abroad program in Japan, even though, as she said, “I wasn’t the best student this semester.” When I agreed to write a letter for her and pointed out that she did a great job of catching up, she replied, “Yaaaaaaaaaaaaayyy! This (all of this) has made me so happy.”

How does she do that?

Jaejin Ka
Chemistry Adjunct Faculty / Science & Math Lead Tutor

Amy was one of several students who came to my tutoring sessions on a regular basis. She often seemed to not grasp the concept of what I explained, or not as quickly as other students did. She would stay with me long hours not only because she took more time to understand but also needed help with almost every problem in her assignments or class materials. Often times, she was not able to apply the principle she just learned from me to the next problem that uses the very same principle. I was worried about her slow progress and how she would fare on her exams.

However, I was surprised at her test results. It was Amy who earned a 4.0, out of all the students who got help for the same class. It was neither Greg who looked so smart, nor Tom who was so active in the tutoring session. The latter two were both good students, and I liked them very much because they were so personable and diligent. Yet, it was Amy who actually excelled in the end.

I was still perplexed. Even after she garnered a 4.0, she still acted the same, not understanding the following chapters, looking lost, and leaving me wondering how she did well in her exam. Was it a fluke? Well, she pulled off another 4.0 in the next exam. I had to process how all this was happening.

There could have been multiple factors played in her success compared with others, but I will just focus on what I observed as a tutor. Maybe she did not look as smart as other students just because she trusted me so much to show her all academic weakness unlike any other students. In other words, she was not ashamed to ask all the minutia questions until she fully understood. She was willing to expose her lack of understanding to the extent that she may look dumb. Of course, I would encourage students to ask the same questions over and over until they truly understood. Even with my encouragement, some students would respond, “Oh that is right”, “It makes sense” Or “I get it” etc. at my first explanation when they actually understand incompletely. That is not the case for Amy, she almost never said she understood right away, instead took full advantage of the tutor even until said tutor could become exhausted. Sometimes, she would also become too exhausted and about to cry. Yet, she always found a way to bounce back and stayed with me until she understood everything she asked. That is a rare virtue to the success and I do commend her for her humble but relentless approach.

As for me, I no longer assume student success based on their strengths/weaknesses shown to me, because each student would reveal their weaknesses at different degrees, and because some students like Amy would share more weaknesses than others, yet make even greater progress.


Finding Understanding

Tracee Rolff
Adjunct Faculty, Nursing

As a nursing professor I see students from every walk of life, many different countries, and vastly different levels of understanding of what this career will ask of them.

I met Jen in my OB clinical rotation, she was not overly excited to be in a clinical that focused solely on new mothers and their babies but she was ready to give it her all. English was not Jen’s first language. I quickly noticed as she was doing her paperwork each week there were several medical terms, especially revolving around infant care that Jen was not understanding. Since English was not Jen’s first language, I began to explain what each word was when I was talking. Instead of just saying this baby has lanugo, I would say see the fine hair or lanugo on this babies back. After I started doing this, Jen would find me during lulls in clinical and find every word on the paper work she didn’t know and ask me what it meant. She told me she had been looking them up at home to better understand but that took her so much time. We continued each week to go over more vocabulary. We got to the point Jen had to start going through the computer and looking at every individual different thing a nurse could chart in the computer to find new words for her to learn.

The most exciting thing happened when Jen was able to see a C-section for the first time. She came alive. The nurse caring for the patient said she was the most helpful student she had ever had in the Operating room. Jen found everything she could do to help in the room and was able to provide real meaningful help in a situation where I usually just send students to observe. The nurse said she was counting sponges and doing everything she could to help the staff without breaking the sterile field. Surgery was Jen’s niche: she had found it in the most unlikely place, an obstetrical clinical. I recently heard from Jen; she wanted me to be a reference for her as she was soon applying to be a nurse in an operating room setting. I have no doubt that Jen will continue to learn and be able to be an amazing OR nurse.

Dreams Transfer into Reality

Drew Freeman 
Assistant Professor, Marketing

When you start teaching, there is this sense that you’re going to make the world a better place. That there are kids out there, who need guidance and a gentle expert hand to show them the way. For many, those thoughts quickly evaporate when you have a classroom of 30 students who are there because the course is a requirement and to be frankly honest, they don’t care all that much about the lesson you’ve prepared. But don’t fear, the moments are out there.

About a year into my teaching career, I was surprised to find that student who wanted more than just the credit, he tried to understand and grow. In our marketing class, Don (as we’ll call him) was engaged in a class discussion about how the material of the day can be beneficial in their future endeavors, Don said he didn’t know how to answer because he didn’t have a plan or any idea of what his future would hold. There was a different look in his face one of sadness and despair that I had never seen before, and I knew that I needed to get more involved.

After class, I asked Don to stay and chat. I asked him about his past, his current hobbies, hopes, and fears, trying to gain insight. Through our hour’s long conversation, he told me of his passion for cars and clothes and extreme outdoor sports. Don was new to the area, had just lost his dad to cancer and was lost as to what he should do with his life. He began classes because he knew that’s what his dad would have wanted, but he didn’t know what to do or how to look forward. I asked him if you could do anything what would you do?  His answer was simple and profound. “I want to be me and also make my dad proud.”

The next week, he came back to class with an energized look and was quick to tell me of his new plan. He wanted to use his unique skills to sell t-shirts he was designing as a hobby and open a clothing/skate store. I said it sounded good and we focused many discussions over the next few years on those dreams.

After graduation, I received a postcard in the mail from Denver, Colorado inviting me to the grand opening of a new skate & ski shop. It was Don’s logo; he did it, in the corner, there was a hand-written note that said: “Thanks Mr. Freeman, without you, I’d still be lost.”

That is why we teach at this level.. to light the way and guide the students in the direction of success and self-sufficiency. I’m proud to play that role, and every success they have feels like one for me as well.