How old were you when you started teaching at UCC?
I was 52 when I started teaching at UCC in 2004.
Ageism led me to Roseburg. I had lived in the Portland Metro area most of my life. When I wanted to start my encore career as a fulltime speech teacher, I knew I was qualified, but I didn’t realize that being older might be a barrier for me. When I had interviews with people who were the same age as my children, I realized getting my dream job was going to be a bit more complicated than I’d anticipated. Let’s face it, most people don’t want to hire someone who reminds them of their mother. When I walked into the interview room at UCC, I saw people who were my age, and they didn’t see my age as a barrier.
Licensed general contractor, claims adjuster, senior business marketing consultant for SAIF Corporation, graduate teaching assistant, graduate research assistant, adjunct speech instructor (for about 10 years while holding other positions), educational assessment researcher / workshop facilitator (throughout U.S.), regional education director for an association, and foundation director for a school district.
The first term I was at UCC, one of my students chose to give a very inappropriate entertaining speech. When he started demonstrating a lap dance he’d experienced on his 21st birthday, I stopped him right in the middle of his speech and told him to sit down. I pointed to the syllabus and the criteria for the speech as well as how disrespectful his speech had been. He told me that he was friends with the college president and he could get me fired. I told him to go ahead and talk with the president. Later, the student did complete an appropriate make-up speech.
What did you learn after your first term at UCC?
After my first term at UCC, I started becoming more vocal about respect for everyone and about gendered communication. That’s what prompted me to develop and start teaching Gendered Communication. I wanted students to have an opportunity to recognize roles we prescribe for others and how this affects us. I also wanted students to gain new insights about sex and sexual orientation and how our communication affects perceptions. Later I also started doing Susan B. Anthony impersonations for similar reasons. Susan B. Anthony was not only a suffragist, she was an advocate for human rights.
Most difficult thing about being a teacher?
Certainly, seeing students struggling to stay focused and to make the most of their educational opportunities was difficult. I believed with all my heart (and still do) that getting an education can be a powerful life-changing experience. I wanted everyone to grasp this, but not everyone was ready to do so. However, the most difficult aspect of being a teacher was attending funerals of my students two years in a row; that was beyond heartbreaking.
What was the best thing about being a teacher?
Without question, witnessing growth in students. Nothing was more exciting than to see students who were able to gain confidence, direction, knowledge and insights that helped them start seeing their life possibilities in a new way.
Average number of students taught in a year?
Probably between 275-300 students per year.
What will you miss most about UCC?
I loved working with students and had amazing colleagues.
Over the years, I asked several seasoned, fulltime faculty members for permission to watch them teach; those were humbling experiences because I could see first-hand the dedication, expertise, and passion for teaching that my colleagues possessed. Those experiences made me want to be a better educator.
Other favorite memories
Watching Sean (boom boom) Breslin blow things up on campus, having impromptu conversations was some very funny colleagues, and enjoying the excellent learning opportunities and chances to connect with colleagues at faculty retreats.
The first faculty retreat I attended was at Diamond Lake. Cheryl Yoder divided us into groups based on which way we liked to hang our toilet paper – paper hanging over or under. For the first time in my life, I realized I was definitely a person who liked to have my toilet paper hanging over the top of the role.
What are you doing now?
I officially ‘retired’ from UCC in December 2018 at 66. After reading 43-45 books and hundreds of articles on retirement (in addition to becoming certified as a professional retirement coach), I realized that most people don’t retire anymore. The very term ‘retirement’ is outdated.
In February, I started an online business focusing on systemic strategies to support positive aging while addressing ageism. I write, speak, and produce short videos. As my work unfolds, I plan to offer training and development opportunities for individuals, communities, and businesses. I think what I am doing is turning into more of an advocacy effort than a business, but that’s okay. I’m now connecting with some people around the country who are doing similar work. I am engaged and doing what is important to me.
Advice to students?
- Meet with your instructors, stay engaged, seek to learn everything you can while at UCC.
- Never give up; it’s all a learning opportunity.
- Speak up, speak out, and be the difference. Your voice matters.
Advice to colleagues?
I know you’ll keep doing what you do best no matter what form it takes. Do know that the Social Security Administration is now projecting that one in three people over 65 will likely live until they are at least 90 or beyond. I trust my former colleagues will continue to think about the big picture and how their work now will fit into the rest of their lives. Thank you all for being the best colleagues ever and for continually inspiring me.