It happened to a South Dakota mathematician almost 40 years ago; then again to a Sutton girl nearly a decade ago. Now a Texas thespian is the latest to embrace the often challenging but rewarding role as a McCook Community College Instructor.
Jim Hall's math interests gave way to science and he arrived on the MCC campus in 1976. Tiffany Gapp came to Southwest Nebraska as a band and music teacher in 2006 which ultimately led her to a permanent post at MCC last year. Clay Grizzle arrived from east Texas this summer. Despite their diverse backgrounds and interests, they all three agree about the best part of their jobs: Students.
"I've been blessed because the science classes I've taught have given me a steady wave of great students who are serious about their careers," Hall said. "It's rewarding when they go on to the next phase of their lives and continue to use science whether it's in a medical field or elsewhere."
"I just love the students," Tiffany said. "We have such a great environment here with the way the campus has been developed with a picturesque central corridor, everything is so inclusive and that just seems to extend to personal relationships," she said.
"My first reaction to this campus was 'wow' this is small," Grizzle said, "But I've come to appreciate that small doesn't have to have a negative connotation. I love it that you can walk anywhere on campus in three or four minutes and that everybody knows everybody – and if you don't know somebody it's just because you haven't met them yet."
Over the past 37 years, Hall has taught physiology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology, microbiology, botany, math, computer science, and currently teaches microbiology, anatomy and physiology, and nutrition. He said he has never really ever wanted to be anywhere else in part because of the support of the administration and the support of the community. He notes that college officials have always found a way to give him everything he needs to teach his courses.
"And McCook is a great community that has always strongly backed McCook Community College," Hall said.
Gapp agrees that Mid-Plains Community College officials have been very supportive of her transition from high school academic -- including Humanities Division Chair Chad Swanson and Dr.Jody Tomanek, Area Vice President for Instruction.
"It's really refreshing how supportive everybody is. If you don't have something in your classroom you need, it's probably your own fault," she said. "It just seems like we are always looking for ways to make improvements whether it comes in the form of physical improvements, instructional enhancement, or better resources."
One of the resources MPCC has used over the past few years is a recommitment to a mentoring program. This semester Hall, Gapp and Grizzle were placed on one of several mentoring groups on the MCC campus.
While there has always been an informal mentoring process within many departments, a steady infusion of younger instructors prompted MPCC to try a more formal approach. The goal is to provide first-year instructors with a mentor within their own division and one outside their division.
"Clay's been an instructor for more than 30 years, so this maybe isn't a typical mentoring situation," Hall said. He notes that Grizzle's office in Walsh-Brady Hall is in close proximity to business instructors Janet Stalder, Lorrie Mowry and Crystal Evans.
"I'm sure those friendly and knowledgeable ladies have all helped answer most any question he has had this semester, but I think as an institution we just want to give first-year instructors every opportunity to succeed, and by having a mentor outside his program and in another building, just gives him one more resource."
Hall said he sees the mentors' role is to maybe help new instructors navigate some of the processes and formalities that are unique to the McCook campus.
"We have a faculty day and new instructors go through an orientation, but two months later if Clay wants to know how to handle a sick day or what the procedure is for selling or printing tickets for a play, hopefully Tiffany and I can help steer him in the right direction."
Gapp, who is in her second year as MCC music instructor, said her most difficult transition for her from high school to a collegiate setting was the procedural differences as well as not fully realizing the scope as well as the correct procedures for utilizing all the resources.
"I'm still learning things myself and learning that I maybe didn't quite do things right last year, and hopefully I can pass that along to Clay, so he doesn't make those same mistakes," Gapp said.
Gapp is a Hastings College graduate and has taught music at Southwest and St. Patrick's in McCook before finding herself on the MCC campus as an accompanist for Music Instructor Glenda Baker in 2006. When Baker resigned in the spring of 2012, she encouraged Gapp to apply for the job.
"I'm constantly getting text messages or emails from students wanting to know the answer to things like dorm-related questions or finding certain resources in the community, or reminding each other about campus activities," Tiffany said. "We really are like one big family here."
Grizzle was most recently a Professor of Theater/Drama at Panola College in Carthage, Texas and has more than 30 years of teaching and theater production experience.
"I just wanted to get out of east Texas," he said. "I was looking for a new adventure."
He applied for teaching positions in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Kansas and Nebraska.
"Even from the first telephone interviews, I could tell that there was a great deal of pride about this college and this community, I just sensed this was a tight-knit group of people who genuinely care about their campus," Grizzle said. "This is the only college I ever interviewed in which not only did someone give me a tour of the campus, they made it a point to give me an extensive tour of the community."
MCC instructors acknowledge the contributions of the McCook College Foundation which has many scholarships that available for MCC students.
"We extend our appreciation to the many instructors and other individuals and organizations that have provided funds and commitment to MCC and the students," said Janet Werkmeister, Director of Administration for the McCook College Foundation.
"Students' dreams are fulfilled, their lives are changed, doors to future opportunity are opened, and our community is strengthened because of the financial support they receive from the McCook College Foundation."
To contact the foundation call Janet Werkmeister at 308-345-5233 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.