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.

The First Blogging Award, The Liebster


I am honored to report that Reflections from the Journey was nominated for its first Blog Award, the Liebster. This is an award where fellow bloggers recommend other bloggers. Thank you, Margaret Locke! By accepting this award, I have to answer a few questions and nominate other bloggers. Currently, we are in the process of building a house, selling a house, packing up a house, and raising a family and eight ducklings, the latter being much higher maintenance than anticipated, so I am going to modify this a bit. Instead of answering the eleven questions in each section, I am giving myself a much needed “pass” and shortening them to three:

#1: Three Random Facts About Myself:

I am a singer, high soprano. My Great-Aunt Gladys sang at the Met. Everyone in the family thinks the talent comes from her.
I am currently raising eight ducklings, four Anconas (a rare British Heritage breed) and four Pekings (which my husband wants to serve for Thanksgiving–this is still in discussion!)
Much to my husband’s chagrin, I prefer to sip wine out of a small coffee mug.

#2: Answer Three Questions:

If you could give one piece of advice to other writers/bloggers, what would it be?

My advice is Go For It! Write from the heart, show passion in your work. Yes, there will be duds, but in the long run, readers value your glimpse of real life.

If you could go back and relive college again, would you?

That’s a good question. I attended college where my father served as president. I have mixed feelings about this. I learned many valuable lessons, but it was challenging and at times painful being the President’s daughter.

If you could speak any other language fluently, which would it be?

Even though some consider this a dead language, I would LOVE to be fluent in Gaelic.

#3: Nominate Three other Blogs:

Pacificparatrooper (I nominated you because we have so much to learn from history.  You provide us with a front page view of your father’s experience in WWII.  Please keep sharing!)

Bluewhimsywriting (She’s a newbie, trying to get off the ground.  Take a look!  🙂

Raisingfivekidswithdisabilities (You take on the world, defending, protecting, and raising your kids.  Kudos to you!)

#4: Three Questions for the nominated Bloggers:

What is your favorite meal to prepare?

Share a moment in history that inspired you. Why was it so influential?

If you could pass one bit of wisdom along to another writer/blogger, what would it be?

Thanks for reading!

I Want You! (to prepare your kids for college)


Many parents are concerned with their children’s college readiness. As a community college English teacher over the past 17 years, I have also seen areas where my students could use additional preparation. This post is NOT about critiquing the public schools; instead, I want parents to see the power they have at home in the summer.

Each summer (starting around 7th grade) I complete a mini-session with my kids. I’m not a mean mom; my kids still get to be kids. Four weeks out of every summer, I ask my kids to give me 30 minutes per day (Monday-Friday) to work on their studies. If my kids struggle in math, I buy a summer bridge workbook at my local bookstore and have them complete 1-2 pages every day. They are not learning new material. They are merely spending some time reviewing what they learned the previous year to keep their skills fresh (Don’t worry, the answers are in the back of the book). Most college students have to take at least one math class. Many mathematical concepts are also building blocks. Students who have reviewed the previous year’s content will be better prepared to learn.

I also have my children write a 250-400 word five-paragraph essay. Usually they write about something fun like their favorite vacation or sport. Completing the writing process just once over the summer keeps their writing skills fresh. If you are unsure what to look for in such an essay, I wrote an earlier blog for parents found here. Journaling is another writing activity that will help keep skills sharpened. You can find a list of topics on-line or just let your child’s creative juices flow. Sometimes my kids write a story, wonderful mementoes to save.

For students who are college bound, the ability to write a coherent five-paragraph essay is vital. Many college classes assign a single essay that is worth 10-25% of their final grade. Students who succeed in college learn that these essays take time, planning, and multiple drafts. Successful students tend to have a firm understanding of the writing process when they enter college.

In addition, I encourage ALL parents to complete a logic unit with their children. This is a great middle school age activity. Learning logic reinforces a student’s critical thinking skills. I found a useful workbook called “Logic Liftoff.” During one of our four week sessions, I ask my kids to complete one worksheet per day (Don’t worry, the answers are in the back of the book). My kids only complete this activity for one summer, yet this has led to some productive family discussions and a marked improvement in my children’s reasoning skills. It’s particularly moving when they use logic to defeat me in a friendly debate.

Finally, read, read, read!!! Let them read fun books, take them on a road trip to the local bookstore or library, but please encourage your child to read over the summer! College students have large amounts of reading to complete for each class. They must also be able to understand what they’re reading. Reading over the summer will help increase their speed and comprehension.

Parents, you have the power to truly make a difference in your children’s lives. If you want to give them an edge for the college years, complete the activities above in the summertime. For those who think they can’t help their kids, please know that I struggled with math my entire life, but the workbooks were something I could share/complete with my kids.  Please feel free to e-mail me if you have specific questions or if you need some help planning a five-paragraph essay. Also, please share this with any parent who might find this useful.

Good luck!