Engaged, Inspired, Caring and Focused on Community

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EICC_engagedTeaching at Eastern Iowa Community Colleges

At its heart, college is really about one thing – learning. That means our most important job in serving students is teaching. Whether working to complete an Associate’s degree or taking a single evening’s class to learn how to make French pastry, students taking classes at Eastern Iowa Community Colleges benefit from experienced, passionate teaching.

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Brandon Lange (far left) with students in his Chemistry class at MCC.

For many who teach, it is an avocation – a calling. For some, they have always wanted to be teachers. “My dad was a professor at a community college,” says Gina Bielski, Communication Department Coordinator and Phi Theta Kappa (Honors) Advisor at Clinton Community College. After getting her Associate’s degree at Illinois Valley Community College where she developed a true enthusiasm for teaching, she transferred to Eastern Illinois University to attain her B.A. and M.A. in Speech Communications with the goal of “following in my dad’s footsteps.” She’s been an instructor now for 10 years and teaches public speaking. “Seeing the way my students have progressed and what they have learned by the end of a semester is what I love the most about teaching,” she adds with a smile.

“An awesome day for me is when I go on clinical visits and see my past graduates working with my current students. This never gets old and makes me smile every time.”
– Dee Kilby, Surgical Technology Program Director, Scott Community College

Brandon Lange, chemistry instructor and Phi Theta Kappa Advisor at Muscatine Community College says he knew from a young age he wanted to be involved in education in some way. “When I reached grad school, I had the opportunity to teach a general chemistry course at the post-secondary level. After doing that for a semester, I knew I would be involved in education for the rest of my life,” he says. He’s been at MCC since the fall of 2010.

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Dee Kilby (far left) poses with some of her students in the Surgical Technology lab at SCC.)

For others, teaching is a place they come to later from another career to find a new professional home. “I am a surgical technologist and a nurse. I worked for 18 years at Genesis Medical Center,” explains Dee Kilby, Surgical Technology Program Director at Scott Community College. “I never saw myself as an educator but I was encouraged by many of my co-workers to apply and take the leap. It was one of the best decisions of my life!” Dee’s been an instructor for almost 7 years now. “The best days for me are when I get to see the light bulb go off above my students’ heads. Knowing they understood makes what I do worthwhile.”

Ken Hunter, program director for Transportation Technology and Diesel Instructor at Scott Community College (SCC) has a professional background that goes back 35 years, including a stint in the military. “I graduated from the Scott Community College Diesel program back in 1980 and have worked in the field as a mechanic, service manager, and warranty administrator,” he explains. Needless to say, he comes with an incredible background in ‘real world’ experience. “I’ve been an instructor now for 8 years here at SCC. I like everything about teaching. The best is the students; when you really see them learning and it all hits home.”

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Gina Bielski (2nd from left), Communications Department Coordinator at CCC.

A focus on students is a common factor. “Every instructor at EICC will tell you the same thing when you ask them what they like best about teaching,” says Brandon. “The best part of teaching is the students. We have the opportunity to help people achieve their goals.” Dee agrees. “An awesome day for me is when I go on clinical visits and see my past graduates working with my current students. This never gets old and makes me smile every time.”

They all agree that teaching has its challenges. Not the least of which is the growth of technology and the impact that has had on both teaching and learning. Learning in the classroom is different than in the past and so are the resources students have to learn outside the classroom or lab. “In order to help everyone, instructors now have to give information in multiple ways,” explains Dee. “This means more hands-on learning, group projects and critical thinking skills.” All the colleges of EICC work hard to maintain learning facilities that feature the latest technology – including ‘smart boards’, work stations, simulated environments and actual in-the-field equipment to work on. Instructors also communicate with students via online portals, texting and more. Field trips, guest speakers and actual work experience (in some programs) round out the experience.

The other challenge they’ve noticed is the time students have for academics.  “Students have to balance work, family and school, and that can be very challenging,” says Brandon. “I do as much as possible to ensure they are successful by being adaptable to their specific situation.” Since she teaches a course that many students don’t look forward to taking (public speaking), Gina appreciates that she needs to bring something more to the class than lectures and assignments. “I try to provide a variety of teaching styles and group activities that alleviate the stress of speaking to a group of strangers,” she explains. “My hope is that they gain self-confidence and feel more comfortable with their ability to deliver public speeches with less anxiety.”

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Ken Hunter (far right) with students from the Diesel Technology program lab at SCC.

When asked what STUDENTS can do to be more successful in their college experience, this group of instructors provides some sage advice. “The best advice I can give is for students to come to class regularly and get to know their instructors,” says Gina. The idea of making a connection with your instructor is one that resonates with Dee as well. “Your instructor wants you to be successful and see you through to graduation,” she explains. “You CAN do this – we have your back. But it’s important for you to be accountable and do your part.”

Taking advantage of the resources and services offered by EICC is also critical. We can help you every step of the way, says Brandon. “Student Services are available to help you with registration, advising, financial aid, tutoring and other aspects of attending college,” he points out. “Show up every day for class, come prepared and ask questions – please ask questions,” he adds. “Put effort into planning your day. There should be time to study and time to have a little fun, too.”

Instructors and staff at EICC have worked to develop a culture of ‘high expectations and high aspirations’ – both for themselves and for students. “When I tell people I teach, they often say ‘Kids these days’ in kind of a negative way,” says Ken. “I say they should come and see my students. We have a bright future with these students in the field. I always encourage students that whether they are going to class or to their job, they should be in a good mood and be ready to work hard.” All of this group also agrees that students are what make their jobs so rewarding. Brandon sums it up best: “Nothing makes me work harder than seeing those students be successful!”

For more information on programs, services and degree options at EICC, visit eicc.edu.

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