Family, Church, and Local Community College

During my first year of college, Dr. John Willson’s history class mapped a substantial portion of America’s history through study of “Family, Church, and Local Community.” Expanding on Dr. Willson’s famous phrase, I observed a connection to education. Last fall, I accepted a part-time position as afternoon secretary at Kellogg Community College’s Fehsenfeld Center. To be completely honest, I questioned whether I should instead pursue a full time teaching position. However, I recognized something special here.

I first began working at the Fehsenfeld Center in the fall of 1996, teaching Transitional English and serving as a paraprofessional. Teaching at this level improved my understanding of the writing process. If students could master a quality paragraph, they could readily transition to the college essay. This experience served me well when later teaching Freshman Composition. I also met fellow instructors; many were members of the local community: Lawyers, high school teachers, business and community leaders, etc. They offered a unique combination of education paired with real world experience.

The Fehsenfeld Center also brings in a lively group of local students who, year after year, often form a learning community. Many become friends, form study groups, and succeed together. As an Adjunct Instructor for the past two decades, I was already part of this process; however, I wanted more. My brother once shared that secretaries are the sergeants of an institution; without their leadership, facilities could not function effectively. In addition to time in the classroom, I discovered that assisting students in the office often increased the classroom connection. I enjoy hearing about their current semesters and future plans, providing assistance if they are feeling frustrated and need a small nudge, perhaps a starting point for an assignment, someone to help brainstorm summer options, or just an ear to listen.

The Fehsenfeld Center offers a unique learning experience for the residents of Barry County:

• Want to complete core classes close to home and transfer to a four year institution? Did you know that 4 out of 10 students who earn a four year degree begin at their local community college? (

• Want to pursue a class or two at an affordable price and see if college is the next step?

• Interested in learning a trade? Come learn about our welding and manufacturing programs.

• Want to explore special interest classes? Perhaps you might enjoy Pastor Anton’s Life Long Learning Class, The Bible: A Closer Look.

• Want to earn an associate’s degree and take on the world?

Come see me in the office!

Thanks for reading!


The Watcher at the Gate: Friend or Foe?

quiz pic

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

Happy Fall, Readers! Life has been busy here with the back to school activities and an increased teaching load. I finally found a small window this week to write.

Every semester, my Freshmen Composition students read “The Watcher at the Gate” by Gail Godwin. Her words address an issue that many students face: How can writers over come the negative voice in their head and just write? Has this ever happened to you? You might be half way through the first draft of an assignment and begin to doubt yourself: “That sounds awful!” or “Why even bother writing this? I’m just going to fail!” We tend to be our harshest critic. I think this criticism keeps students from writing quality essays, so we begin each semester reading about other “Watchers,” and students write a response. Recently, a student named “Ella” wrote a memorable tribute to her “Watcher.” I hope you enjoy her work as much as I did!

I know her as the Inner Editor. Since 2011, I’ve been an avid member of the NaNoWriMo community, and through them I first personified my inner editor. I think her name is Penelope, but more often I call her the Goddess of Well-Starched Female Lawyers.

She has a snappiness about her, an efficiency which demands to be obeyed. Sleek blonde hair pulled into a bun, rectangular glasses over stern eyes, a neat grey suit, and heels just low enough to be practical, but high enough to click like gunshots on a courthouse floor.

Like a lawyer studying for loopholes, she has an eye for detail, and catches every slip I make. She reminds of my so-called rights, instructing me not to say or write until she’s there to advise me. Sometimes, I’m grateful for it. She’s kept me from saying a great many stupid things, and certainly she’s good at what she does.
But at least once a year, I beg her pardon, and close the door to her prison cell. And I write. At least 1,667 words per day. And as the days of November tick by, I weave a story without her assistance. Yes, it’s messy. It could even be called word vomit. But first drafts are supposed to be.

When December comes, I let Penelope out of her cell. She’s exhausted – emotionally drained from the onslaught of messy grammar. But we share a cup of tea, and then she goes to work. And by the time Christmas arrives, she’s back in full force, snapping commands into my ear.

To be honest? I wouldn’t have it any other way.