Feature

Kirkwood Difference Award

In January, the Kirkwood Difference Award was presented to nine college employees. Each winner was nominated by a former student for their dedication to student success. Each nominee has shown a passion for education and helping students reach their potential. This year’s winners were Diane Bean, Marci Bowden, Josh Madsen, Kim Muhl, Sarah Mangold, Julia Rabe, Glen Peters, Tim Arnold and Joe Sedlacek. Below are comments about their experiences at Kirkwood and life during a pandemic.  

Diane Bean, Professor of Mathematics 

Q: What classes do you teach? What’s your favorite class to teach? 

A: Statistics, Business Statistics, Calculus I, Calculus II, and Business Calculus. Favorite–Statistics. 

Q: How did you decide that you wanted to teach and help students?  

A: My father was a math teacher at a high school and a community college in Nebraska.  When I was in college, he asked me to substitute teach for him for two of his community college math classes for a week.  I found that I really enjoyed doing that.  Also, I tutored math as an undergraduate and found it rewarding when the students I helped began to understand the material. 

Q: What does being named a Kirkwood Difference winner mean to you?  

A: Being recognized by a student is very meaningful to me. 

Q: Has the pandemic changed the way you interact with students this past year?  

A: My office hours are virtual. Also, I used to give in-class problems and walk around the room to help students.  Now, I have them work on most problems outside of class and tell them to email me or to contact me during office hours if they have questions.  I try to stay at the teacher’s station in the classroom most of the time. 

Q: Is there any advice or words of wisdom you want to pass on to Kirkwood students? 

A: Take different types of classes to see what interests you.  Try to learn new things throughout the rest of your life. 

Marci Bowden, English Instructor 

Q: What classes do you teach? 

A: I’ve taught a variety of English courses, but I mostly teach Composition I and II. I do not have a favorite – I enjoy teaching all of them. 

Q: How did you decide that you wanted to teach and help students?  

A: I wanted to create an environment where students could explore their own voices, stories and ultimately, discover how they can share their perspectives, understandings and ideas.  

Q: What does being named a Kirkwood Difference winner mean to you?  

A: Being named a Kirkwood Difference winner is an absolute honor. I was blown away by the nomination and am encouraged to continue to strive to provide a fun learning environment for my students.  

Q: Has the COVID-19 pandemic created any difficulties or unique changes in your life?  

A: I believe the pandemic has created difficulties and challenges for everyone. I look forward to being on the other side of the pandemic, where we can look back and note the innovation we are currently exploring. For example, the way we are using Zoom and incorporating technology in our courses is a unique change. However, I am excited to see how we continue to use it moving forward.  

Q: Is there any advice or words of wisdom you want to pass on to Kirkwood students? 

A: My advice would be to continue to explore courses and topics that are interesting to you and create your own path through those interests.  

Josh Madsen, Associate Professor 

Q: What classes do you teach? 

A: Biology, Microbiology and Nutrition. 

Q: What do you love the most about your role at Kirkwood? 

A: I like making a small, daily difference in student lives. 

Q: What does being named a Kirkwood Difference winner mean to you?  

A: It is validation of the hard work we do here. I think we all have lifelong impacts on students at Kirkwood. That desire permeates throughout the faculty and staff at the College. 

Q: Do you remember what you were doing when you found out you were nominated? 

A: Of course, it was the week before the final week of the Fall 2020 term, which was exhausting. Finding out I had received this award reinvigorated me the last week of the term. 

Q: Has the COVID-19 pandemic created any difficulties or unique changes in your life?  

A: It has definitely impacted my family. My wife is a PA in a local ER, so COVID impacts her every day. I have been amazed at how resilient my kids are. Personally, I am a competitive triathlete and having some of the biggest competitions of my life cancelled has been very hard. But this small inconvenience on luxuries I have time for only makes me appreciate what I have more than ever. 

Q: Is there any advice or words of wisdom you want to pass on to Kirkwood students? 

A: Be honest with yourself and reflect on your strengths. Then find pathways that allow you to take advantage of those strengths. And if it takes you some time to come to those realizations, that is ok. 

Sarah Mangold, Assistant Professor of Journalism 

Q: What classes do you teach? 
A: My classes include Mass Media, Media History, News Reporting, Public Relations and Marketing and Fundamentals of Oral Communication. I also advise the Communiqué, the college’s student newspaper. 

Q: What does being named a Kirkwood Difference winner mean to you? 
A: It was a true honor to learn that one of my former students took the time to write a nomination. It was great to read about his positive experience at Kirkwood. 

Q: Has the COVID-19 pandemic created any difficulties or unique changes in your life? 

A: One unique change is that I have been able to spend more time with my family, which has been wonderful. But, one of the most difficult challenges was this past fall when I homeschooled four children while also working from home. 

Q: Has the pandemic changed the way you interact with students this past year? 
A: Yes, for sure. Our weekly Communiqué meetings are now conducted via Zoom. I miss how busy the newsroom was pre-COVID, gathering around the table for brainstorming sessions and the lively conversations that took place. I’m looking forward to the day when we are comfortable having more face-to-face interactions. 

Q: Is there any advice or words of wisdom you want to pass on to Kirkwood students? 
A: College students face many challenges so I would encourage them to stay focused on their goals and commit to moving forward even during tough times. Maintain communication with instructors. Update them sooner rather than later about any challenges or barriers to ensure the best chance of success. And, get involved on campus. Branch out a bit to meet new people and make connections. 

Kim Muhl, Professor/Instructor Physical Education 

Q: What classes do you teach? 

A: Athletic Development , Theory of Basketball, Prevention and Care of Athletic Injuries, Weight Conditioning, and Racquetball. Probably Athletic Development 

Q: What do you love the most about your role at Kirkwood? 

A: Flexibility in the classroom. 

Q: What does being named a Kirkwood Difference winner mean to you? 

A: That I am actually helping students. 

Q: Do you remember what you were doing when you found out you were nominated? 

A: Getting ready for our first game. 

Q: Is there any advice or words of wisdom you want to pass on to Kirkwood students? 

A: Get in a daily routine—and prioritize what and when you do things. 

Glen Peters, Automotive Instructor 

Q: What classes do you teach? 
A: Introduction to Automotive Technology and Auto Body Collision Repair and Restoration. 

Q: How did you decide that you wanted to teach and/or help students?  
A: I was in my late 50s, and wanted to pass knowledge on to the younger generations before retirement. I’ve always enjoyed teaching and did a considerable amount of independent contract training for automotive equipment manufacturers over the past three decades. It’s very satisfying to hear a student say that they never thought they could learn so much about a subject. They get a significant feeling of accomplishment when they’re able to complete a difficult repair or diagnosis. 

Q: What does being named a Kirkwood Difference winner mean to you?   
A: The hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. 

Q: Has the COVID-19 pandemic created any difficulties or unique changes in your life?   
A: Yes.  It’s been difficult teaching some classes by Zoom. The concepts are better taught in-person. It’s also strange to not be eating in restaurants. One positive benefit is that I’ve been able to connect more faculty names with faces with so many department meetings being on Zoom.   

Q: Is there any advice or words of wisdom you want to pass on to Kirkwood students?   
A: Give your courses 100% and complete all homework assignments. The best way to get the most out of your course is to attend class every day and treat it like you’re on the job. Doing your best will make the classes much more enjoyable and rewarding.   

Julia Rabe, Assistant Professor of American Sign Language 

Q: What classes do you teach? What’s your favorite class to teach? 

A: I teach all levels of American Sign Language. I really enjoy the higher levels of ASL where students communicate with each other and engage in dialogue and storytelling. 

Q: How did you decide that you wanted to teach or help students? 

A: I grew up using ASL in my family. My father is Deaf so it only made sense that I would want to teach it to others. I also taught Deaf and hard of hearing children in K-12 for five years and much of my love of the language and culture stems from them as well. 

Q: What does being named a Kirkwood Difference winner mean to you? 

A: It means a lot. Obviously, everything we do is for the students so when a student nominates for this award it goes a long way to show you that you are making a difference and impacting lives. 

Q: Do you remember what you were doing when you found out you were nominated? 

A: I was actually in Texas for my doctoral graduation when I got the news, which was very special for me. 

Q: Has the COVID-19 pandemic created any difficulties or unique changes in your life? 

A: I think that COVID-19 has impacted everyone in some capacity. For myself, I contracted COVID back in November and am still struggling with “long-hauler” symptoms a couple months later. This is an impact on a more personal level. I also think that COVID has really created challenges with interaction and engagement. While teaching online or virtually can have its benefits, I truly miss having a full class of students all conversing and engaging with each other during learning. I do look forward to the time that we can return to that concept. 

Q:  Is there any advice or words of wisdom you want to pass on to Kirkwood students? 

A: I would just tell students several things: 1) persistence and optimism go a long way to achieving your goals. Keep on keeping on. As a community college graduate myself, I understand the challenges many of you face. We are here to help and support you on your journey. 2) Education is one thing that no one can ever take away from you and one of the best things you can give yourself. 3) Make an effort to develop friendships and connections with peers and instructors. These connections will inspire and support you throughout your journey. 

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