Quality Instruction Yields Student Success

Five WCTC instructors – Phil Valle, Khyana Pumphrey, Sue Koprowski, Mark Krzyszkowski and Erika Derbyshire from the schools of Applied Technologies, General Studies, Protective & Human Services, Business and Health, respectively – represent only a sampling of the hundreds of educators who work to make a difference in the lives of students. Yet they embody the traits shared by the WCTC faculty as a whole.

"At WCTC, we are committed to student success. Our faculty is instrumental in helping students achieve this success," said Denine Rood, WCTC's vice president of learning. "We select instructors based on their rich work history and experience, their love of learning and their in-depth occupational knowledge. This is what they bring to the classroom every day."

Collaboration and teamwork Derbyshire, who has enjoyed a 34-year nursing career with a specialty in pediatrics (along with 25-plus years of teaching experience) teaches in the Nursing-Associate Degree (ADN) and Nursing Assistant programs and says faculty work closely with one another to provide students with a cohesive learning experience.

"I rely on the instructors who taught my students before me," said Derbyshire, who primarily teaches clinical classes toward the end of the ADN program. "At this level, students have the basics down, and I expand on what was learned in previous classes. There's great communication among (the instructors), and we're focused on the same goal: helping to create our partners in care. We are all such a part of the integral whole."

This collaboration extends well beyond program boundaries, adds Koprowski, a longtime educator who teaches in the Instructional Assistant program and was recently named Outstanding Faculty Member by the College's Student Government Association.

"The camaraderie and sharing of ideas is so valuable to our faculty; I get brilliant ideas from people in other areas," she said. Specifically, in the field of education, she adds, "You're working with a team all the time. The strength of whatever we do is increased when you work with other people."

As general education courses are a requirement for the majority of WCTC programs, Social Science instructor Pumphrey, who has an extensive counseling background in the mental health industry, has connected with nearly all programs.

She teaches the subjects of ethics, diversity and psychology, and she said it's important for students to realize these issues come into play in just about every job. In her courses, Pumphrey strives to make connections between these topics and how they relate to different workplace scenarios.

"Because my classes are so diverse, I need to make sure what I'm teaching applies to the particular program," she said.

Tales from the Field

The nature of a technical college education is the hands-on application of knowledge. And there's nobody better to share that knowledge with students than those who have lived it.

Valle, a Mechanical Engineering Technology (MET) instructor who was integral in helping shape WCTC's MET program, spent several years working as an engineer in HVAC and refrigeration industries. He regularly draws on his experiences to share a story or two with students.

"With every lesson plan, I can come up with one example and how it affected me," he said. "I'm always pulling from personal experience."

Krzyszkowski, who has more than 20 years' IT experience and teaches in the Network Specialist program, says his students benefit from his experiences – both good and bad.

"They like to hear my war stories," Krzyszkowski joked. "You can learn a lot from your mistakes, just as you can from your successes."

And while the students learn from him, he, too, learns from them – and with them.

"It's lifelong learning; my students are also my peers. There's no way you could know everything about this topic since technology changes so fast," he said. "We work pretty hard to remain current and up to date with what we teach. It's the same things – or better things – that the training centers have, but with more hands-on lab work."

The Merits of a Technical College Education

The abilities and knowledge gained from a technical education are many, WCTC educators say, and students leave with job-ready skills that make them competitive in today's workforce.

There's great value in a WCTC education, Valle said. "I'm selling a good product. I have a strong story to tell parents, and I definitely see them walking away knowing their child is going to have a good experience. In the spring semester, all of our MET students connected with jobs prior to graduation."

Nursing graduates, Derbyshire said, are also well prepared for what lies ahead. "We get our students occupation ready, and they are expected to immerse themselves in the role. They are confident and know how to use the nursing process."

One of the most rewarding aspects of a technical college education is that it provides students with the skills not just for jobs, but for life, Pumphrey said.

"We're moving students to a place where they are self-sufficient, and WCTC is the step to making that happen," she said.