Category Archives: Summer 2018

Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover

Gregory Butts
Assistant Professor, Technical Careers

When I reflect on my first impression of Cody, I become aware that I did, indeed, make assumptions about him based on his appearance. I thought I knew his background, family situation, and economic circumstances because of what I believed to be true simply because of his looks.

Tall, thin, blonde-haired and blue-eyed, wearing the nicest pair of leather work boots in the class, I thought Cody had the world by the tail. “That kid is popular, has the support of his family, and has had an easy time all through school,” is what I told myself. Little did I know then that Cody had practically raised himself, taken care of an alcoholic parent, and spent the summer picking up pop cans by the side of the road in a rural Michigan farming community in order to pay for his boots.

First impressions can be deceiving. I soon learned that not only did I need to teach Cody Precision Machining bench-work, the functions of both manual and computerized lathes, and the basics of CNC programming, I needed to teach him how to communicate in writing with co-workers on the factory floor, present himself to employers, function as a member of a team in job settings, and believe in his own ability to be successful.

Over the course of the semester I learned a lot about Cody, and Cody taught me a great deal. When Cody presented himself at West Campus, and said he was interested in the Professional Skilled Trades, he knew that those very Trades were the conduit for changing his life. My job was to take the interest and determination that Cody had, and channel it into skills for learning in the classroom, and working in the world.

Cody and I still stay in touch. He works for a local manufacturing company that now pays Cody’s tuition to keep learning. He is in the 2nd year of a 4 year apprenticeship program, and receives pay raises every 6 months. Not only is Cody building a life of self-sufficiency based on meaningful work, but he has influenced other entry-level workers at his company to come back to school. His outstanding performance on the job has led to a strong relationship between the company he works for and our Precision Machining Program at LCC West.

Cody epitomizes the goals and purpose of institutions like Lansing Community College.


Did I Do That Right?

Annescia Dillard
Administrative Support, Center for Teaching Excellence

In my work as a freelance ASL interpreter I am able to supervise sign language interpreting students. In one particular instance, the following occurred…

I watched the student as they began to grow increasingly agitated with each word the speaker uttered. Flustered and appearing mentally exhausted, the student glared at their hands, as they didn’t seem to work. I, while observing, thought “man why are they getting so worked up? This is practice; there is no client relying on this information and it does not count for a grade.” Then it dawned on me. I too was once interpreting in a live setting and felt I had no business being there, that my hands “didn’t work”. Why couldn’t I just get it right? I looked back at the student who was now even more visibly frustrated and signed “Switch?” The student nodded and stopped signing allowing their partner to take over. I watched as tears welled up in their eyes… I was devastated. Had I just made things worse? Was this not the appropriate response? When the student resumed interpreting and continued for the duration of the assignment they seemed better, they achieved a bit more confidence and did not exhibit any more signs of breaking down.

As a standard, the students and myself debrief after a session and talk about the content and their overall interpretation. I made a point to tell the emotional student that my suggestion to have them switch was merely to have them take a break, not to be punitive. Before I could explain myself fully the student nodded profusely and thanked me. I felt relieved. I realized that my anxiety about the appropriate response was unnecessary, as it was just what they inevitably needed. I had once been in their shoes, so I had some understanding of what they were experiencing.

Providing feedback can seem intimidating especially to our colleagues and sometimes our students. We’ve learned the impact of timely and thoughtful feedback in that it is highly effective. It’s important to note that every situation is different; we may do it well or completely miss the mark. Nevertheless, we have to use empathy and trust ourselves – it usually leads us in the right direction.

Scaredy Cat

Tiffany LaPeer
Adjunct instructor of English Language and Literature

Jasmine walked into the room for her conference.  When she sat down, she held her arms close to her body and her body language, indicated that she was nervous and scared.  As Jasmine was getting comfortable in her seat, I tried to find the words to talk to her about her paper.

Her paper for her composition class lacked paragraph structure and organization.  Jasmine’s work was a prime example of high school graduate from Detroit public schools.  The essay was supposed to be a memoir on her life, and someone who influenced her to go into her future career.  She wrote about her brother who had multiple mental disorders.   As I pulled out her paper, she saw some of the comments, and started to stutter.

I looked at the paper and looked back at Jasmine.  Her eyes looked moist, and her bottom lip began to quiver.  I silently began to curse myself because I knew she would cry and I haven’t even started talking to her besides a normal greeting.

“Well Jasmine,” I said, “you have a lot of great ideas here, and a really strong reason for going into social work.  The paper I have in front of me is a little difficult to read.  Can you look at this for a second and tell me where the first paragraph ends?”

Jasmine took her paper and started to flip the pages.  She continued to flip the pages until she got to the end of the paper.  Her emotions went from sad to upset quickly.

“Well, I know this is not one idea throughout your three pages.  I know in this paper you have multiple ideas, and these are great ideas, it’s just we need to move some ideas around and then….”  I started to say, but then Jasmine interrupted me, “So basically re-write the whole essay again!  I failed!”

I finally understood why she was upset, in her mind, if she has to revise a paper, she failed, and her writing was horrible.  She saw rewriting an essay as another way she failed a class, or failed an assignment.  This was a challenging moment for Jasmine and I to understand.  For her, she needed to understand that she wasn’t failing that this is actually part of the writing process.  For me, it showed me how emotionally entailed many student’s view their grades.  While they may hide their emotions, they are going to school for a reason and part of that reason was not to look stupid or dumb to people around them.

What’s Next…

Jennifer VanderMeer
Developmental Math

I was immediately hired as a math teacher in a school district and soon after by Lansing Community College where I have taught developmental math for almost fifteen years. I hoped to be that support, encouragement, and knowledgeable guide to success in the area of concern that I faced myself.

After graduating high school I knew I needed to and planned to start a college path, but was very unsure of what path was of interest to me. Living in Lansing and having older siblings that attended Lansing Community College I knew I would start there.

I started by signing up for all the basics that I would need to transfer. I knew I had some time to figure out my major. What I didn’t know or anticipate was that there was going to be an area of study that was going to slow my progress no matter my major choice, math.

Take a math lab and move at my own pace? Perfect! Or I thought. Come to find out I wasn’t successful at teaching myself the concepts or passing the tests demonstrating mastery of skills. After failing, I decided to take a lecture method for round two. Little did I know that this also was not working and my fear and anxiety were a real barrier now.  I knew I had to look further for support.

I walked in to the math lab to ask for advice and met a blessing in disguise. Well, is wasn’t a real disguise, she was dressed in professional attire looking to attend to math students. I got to share my story, defeat, and honestly some tears. This incredibly generous instructor and tutor agreed to help me anytime one on one at her desk during certain hours. This woman known as Carol helped, saved, and changed my life. Not only did my basic skills get corrected and understood with her help, I went on to a math minor with earning my Bachelors in Education at Central Michigan University. Furthermore I got my Master’s degree in the Art of Education at Olivet College. She didn’t throw out one life preserver, but two.

Not only did Carol create success for me, she helped me be able to create that success for many others as I teach. I am a walking success story. Not a chance in the world you could have told me that that’s what was next for me or to be able to pass on to so many others.  Sharing her story is much more than I may ever have as an instructor, but a goal constantly in my thoughts and plans. This is a tribute to her as she was never told before the chance was gone. I will continue her legacy through my career and devotion to students and their success.

A Student that Helped Me

Jeffery A. Lang, M.A., M.MIN., D.D., Ph.D.
Adjunct Associate Professor of English and
Adjunct Instructor of Management & Leadership

In Fall semester 2014, I met a student who would change me as an instructor. Let’s call her “Naticka.” She was a scared young woman pretending to be brave, but her behavior was such that I needed to speak with her after class.

Our discussion led to a change in me as an instructor. This young apparently tough woman turned into a child before my eyes and began to beg me not to kick her out of class.

She pleaded, “Please don’t kick me out, I’ll be good,” as the tears flowed from eyes.

She said, “I know I am not smart like the other students, but tell me what to do and I will try and do it.”

“Look at me,” I said in a calm voice, as I tried to control my emotions. I told her to never to say that again. I shared that what she did not know, I would teach her.

I quoted scripture to her, and said, “You are fearfully and wonderfully made,” but what we need to do is find out what is the best way for you to learn.”

I arranged revision sessions and it was in these sessions that we bonded. The more we met the more her communication skills improved. Her classroom courtesy and sense of decorum improved.

To ensure her progress, I provided supplemental material from my wife’s 8th grade reading class.  Gradually I saw her attitude change, and an enthusiasm for writing emerged.

Reviewing her essays became therapy sessions. By the end of the course, she was writing with confidence.  During the process, I learned a great deal about the different types of learners.

At the end of the semester, she wrote me a kind note saying, “Thank you Professor Lang.”

Naticka shared with me how I became like the father she never had–I was moved.  Naticka was ready to give up but found the energy to find her way. She thanked me, but it was I who needed to thank her.  At the time I was overwhelmed by negativity, but her appreciation and success reminded me of why I do this job. Thank you Naticka for reminding me why I teach.

Eureka Moments

Mindy Babarskis
Reference and Instruction Librarian

It was one of the dozens of classes I taught that semester. Everything was chugging along at the usual pace for my library instruction sessions and right before I began the database activity, I had a Eureka moment. “Do students even know what I mean when I say database?” I thought to myself. I remembered my first days at college and realized that at some point somebody had to teach the concept of a database to me, I wasn’t born with that knowledge. So, I took a breath and broke down the concept of a research database. By comparing databases to Netflix, since both are paid subscription based platforms that provide content, I hoped this everyday connection would make the scary world of research a little less threatening. As I wrapped up my analogy, I made eye contact with a student in the middle of the room. That’s when I saw it, like a sunrise, like a light bulb being switched on, like a lego clicking into place; comprehension dawning in his eyes. “Ohhh!! That makes sense!” was all he said, but it made my day. From that point on, he was engaged and smiling. He was one of the first students to answer questions and his participation encouraged his peers to volunteer as well. Before he left the instruction room that day, he thanked me and told me that he had learned a lot.

It had been such a simple thing, defining a word I used a million times, but it made such a big difference. As instructors, we need to step back and remember that before our students can become experts they first have to be taught the basics. Looking at my lesson plan from the student’s point of view made me realize how much I was assuming they knew about doing research. If we care about our work as teachers we should value our students enough to help them make those beginning connections, even if it feels redundant. Chances are our students have always been in a class with too many people, in a school that underperforms, or in a situation where no one believed in them. When we show the students who have been left behind that we care about their learning, we help fulfill the mission of LCC as an open- access admissions institution. We provide the chance for ALL students to learn and succeed.

It was My Pleasure

Bonnie Dexter
Adjunct Instructor, CHSE

When Sue thanked me on the last day of the semester my response was, “It was my pleasure”. It was very much an honor to learn from her as much as it was my pleasure to be a part of her learning process. If Sue can ultimately reach her educational goals while developing life skills necessary to enrich and support her community as an engaged global citizen, then her education has great worth.

This past semester I taught lab and clinical for the patient care technician program to high school students. It was amazing to watch students transforms from shy, unsure of potential, quiet and reserved, and a bit hesitant into a strong, confident, brave and up-for-the-task learner and teacher. I focus on Sue as she made great strides this past semester.

My role to guide Sue during clinical utilized teaching methods of simulation and feedback. Simulation was utilized during class and lab to demonstrate what skills Sue would learn to perform. Feedback from Sue and myself allowed us to improve upon those skills. Peer feedback from other students is also beneficial to developing communication, critical thinking and collaboration learning skills.

Sue asked many in depth questions. Sue wanted the details; she was interested in the outcome. She asked for answers to infection rate, policy and procedure, and the purpose for the equipment and treatment. This particular student looked for further education beyond the surface of the teachings. I admire this in her. The spark in her eye brought out the passion in mine.

Sue told me that the most important take home from clinical was learning how to talk to a patient and how to feel and show empathy. This made the biggest impact on her because she wants to help people through some of the hardest times in their lives, when they are sick, away from their family, friends, home and job. Sue wants to help keep patient’s positive, teach them the tools to a healthier happy self. Sue plans to become a physician and to provide medical care to the less fortunate and those with limited access to health care in other countries.

It was my pleasure and my honor to be a part of Sue’s learning process. I look forward to following her progress and accomplishments in the future as she moves forward in her education and life aspirations, which correlates to the overall Lansing Community College mission.


Sean Hickman
Professor, Electrical Technology

Minorities and women are under-represented in the technical courses I teach, as about 93% of the participants are white males.  Even though under-represented students have equal opportunities in the classroom, I often find that their prerequisite skills are lacking when compared to their traditional counterparts.  This shortfall is not due to a lack of intelligence or motivation, but most likely the result of a lack of equitable preparation.  I feel that this inequity perpetuates the myth that women and minorities are not suited for this type of a technical career.

Susie is a female minority who enrolled in my class as part of her apprenticeship program. She entered the course after barely meeting the minimum pre-requisites and struggled in the class right from the start.  Susie, a product of the Lansing School District, felt that she was unprepared for the rigors of college as compared to her peers from the surrounding Lansing districts.  Furthermore, Susie explained her lack of interest in the subject matter, which made it more difficult to learn the course material.  Her most significant admission was the fact that she had only applied for the apprenticeship program because it provided a high wage.  She actually thought she wanted to be a social worker, but could not afford to go back to school to earn the bachelor’s and master’s degrees needed for employment in this field.

I tried to help Susie by teaming her with a male student, who not only had a lot of knowledge related to the course, but who was also was outspoken and passionate about the material.  The male student helped convey a sense of safety with respect to the classroom and content, which led to Susie spending considerable time working with me outside of the scheduled class period. It was during this time that Susie and I developed a strong relationship, as I was able to work with her on a near one-to-one basis.  Our relationship became even more important when the male student stopped showing up for class half way through the term.  Susie was on her own, but by this time, trusted me enough to push forward with the class.  My expressed belief in Susie helped her find success with the course content, which led to confidence and, subsequently, acceptance that her apprenticeship could lead to a job that she was capable of mastering.

Susie is doing well in her job and occasionally emails me with life updates and work accomplishments.  I am proud that my efforts at LCC have helped her understand, not only the course material, but also that success at work is obtainable by someone working in a non-traditional technical field.

Just a Typical Student

Patti Goggins
Assistant Professor of Nursing

My father recently had a heart catheterization and I accompanied him to the hospital for his procedure.  The surgeon was running about 6 hours behind schedule, so the nurse came to apologize and to inform us that my very hungry father would be delayed even longer before he could eat.  I recognized the RN who came to speak with us as Kristi, one of my former students. She had been a quiet, diligent student who needed to work for the grades that she earned.

Healthcare being what it is, we were separated from the other patients by a thin, closed curtain, so I was able to listen as she interacted with her other patients. I noted with pride how respectfully she treated each of them. She had developed and matured into someone who was practicing nursing as both an art and a science.  She changed her approach based upon her patient’s needs and expectations, joking and irreverent with some, more formal and traditional with others, while always maintaining a caring, professional attitude.

My father returned from his procedure, and was finally cleared to eat. It was 9 PM on a Friday night, however, and the hospital cafeteria had closed several hours before.  As we were discussing where I could drive to get him a hot meal, Kristi walked in with Jimmy Johns, piping hot and smelling delicious.  My father was delighted, and I was extremely grateful.  Her seemingly small gesture of kindness was not lost on me, and I began to tear up.  Her thoughtfulness and sensitivity was just so touching.  I told her that I was so proud of the type of nurse she had grown to become.  She responded, “You taught me so much about nursing, not by what you said, but by how compassionately you treated both students and patients. Your class had the biggest impact on the type of nurse I wanted to be”.

I was shocked.  I had done little to nurture her when she was an average student, yet she had grown to become an exceptional nurse. As humans and as teachers, we want immediate gratification.  Life doesn’t typically work that way, however.  Many times, our biggest lessons aren’t learned until years after they are taught. I am grateful that Kristi reminded me that just because a student does not excel during the short time that they sit in my classroom does not mean that they will never transcend. And so my father and I both left the hospital that night with our hearts beating a little stronger, thanks to the care we had received from Kristi.

What I Learned From One Student

Ric Shaull
Adjunct Math Professor

It was hard to pick only one student for this essay, but one definitely stood out.

DJ is a male army veteran, in his mid-to-late 20’s. He was recently discharged from the army after serving two tours in Afghanistan. DJ was in my morning MATH 106 class which met 4 days a week. DJ was very outgoing. I really liked him and appreciated his contributions to our class. At the beginning of the semester, DJ had lots of questions and said he didn’t like math. He also got easily frustrated when he couldn’t solve a problem. I spent as much time as I could in class helping him. We also worked on problems after class. DJ was usually the one student who would not only ask but answer questions. One morning he got really frustrated and stormed out early saying “I’m going to fail this class”. After this incident, I reached out to him and made sure he knew I was there to help in any way I could. We got together at the end of class and talked about life.

DJ revealed he had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). After finding out about his struggles, I researched PTSD to learn more. Now his challenges made sense. Maybe that’s why DJ was often so negative about his math abilities. Even though his attitude wasn’t always the greatest, DJ always sought help during group time and really seemed pleased when he got it right. Once he came up with a creative way to solve a problem which I shared with the class and gave him credit for it.

When finals approached, he was very nervous about passing. I assured him I would work with him on the specific problems he was having trouble with. We met after class and methodically worked through these problems for over an hour. DJ did better than he expected on the final and passed the course with a 2.5.

I really enjoyed working with DJ. He helped me understand our veteran students better, especially those who suffer from PTSD. Many of us may not be aware of the challenges these soldiers face when integrating back into ‘normal life’. A relationship with a teacher who is sensitive to their challenges will help them in this process.
(reference; What is PTSD-VA website)