Changing the world is a difficult thing.
No one told me in graduate school I would also become a mentor, counselor and sounding board when I took a job as an instructor. No level of preparation can prepare any teacher for students who continuously seek advice about their college experiences, future careers and lives in general.
When I came to Carl Sandburg College, I already had some teaching experience under my belt. I had experienced students seeking advice beyond how to perform well in my classes. I thought I had things all figured out.
When students come into your classroom, you have no way of knowing where they are in their lives or how you might end up affecting each other. And when William Elgin walked into my classroom five years ago, I had no idea he would change my life in the ways he has.
I had only been at Sandburg for a year when I first met him. At that time, William was a nontraditional student, a bit older than his peers were, and he was ready to learn anything he possibly could. Right away, William and I had a commonality: He was interested in the same subjects I was teaching, and because he was so interested, he sought more information than what he was getting in class.
William came to my office frequently to ask questions, to seek other reading materials and to just learn as much as he could. For me, that extra time we spent talking was inspiring. Academics are often excited to be able to share their passion for a subject with anyone, particularly invested students.
William taught me how to be a better teacher. He taught me how to connect with students in ways that were as meaningful as and sometimes more meaningful than the dissemination of academic information. He taught me that we, as faculty members, have the ability to influence the trajectory of a student’s life.
When he started talking about his move to a four-year institution, I was thrilled to hear William was thinking about going into teaching someday. Now, he has finished one degree, is about to start another, and is an adjunct faculty member here at Sandburg.
Sandburg’s mission is to provide all students with opportunities for success. During my tenure here, I have discovered that providing those opportunities for success does not just mean we educate students — it means we do whatever is necessary to help our students meet their full potential and leave our institution with the best possible chance for success.
Sandburg supported William and gave him the opportunity to learn and grow and become who he is and was always meant to be. And that is what Sandburg does: This institution of higher learning provides students not only with a chance to meet their potential, but with the support and resources to exceed what they believed possible for themselves.
To me, Sandburg’s mission means we give our students the tools and the help they need to be able to go forward and change the world in their own unique ways. It also means those of us who are fortunate enough to work at Sandburg have the opportunity to change the world.
Lara Roemer is a faculty member in social and behavioral sciences at Carl Sandburg College.
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April 10, 2017 at 12:42AM