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Going to college was never in Vanessa Lopez’s plans. No one in her family had attended before her, and in high school she didn’t see herself continuing her education. Now, 12 years after starting at College of Lake County (CLC), she’s working on her second master’s degree.
“I didn’t think of college as something I could do,” she said. “I struggled with math and reading. I thought college would be too hard for me."
Her high school advisor told her about CLC and helped her enroll in the fall semester in 2009. Because CLC is an affordable option, Lopez said, she was able to attend even though she came from a low-income family.
While she wasn’t yet sure what career she wanted to pursue, Lopez thought about both psychology and education. She went back and forth during her time at CLC and graduated with an associate in fine arts. When she decided she was going to transfer and earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology, her advisors at CLC helped her see what kinds of careers it could lead to, including teaching.
College wasn’t easy for Lopez, but she was thankful for the help she received at CLC, especially from the Latino Alliance and TRiO Student Support Services.
“I loved my time at CLC and continuously tell everyone they should start there,” Lopez said. “Everyone is so supportive. As a first-generation college student, I didn’t know how things worked. The support is what made it possible for me to go to school."
Lopez transferred to Northeastern University and took classes at the University Center of Lake County (UCLC) on CLC’s campus. There, she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2014.
“I was able to stay home and continue my education,” Lopez said. “I was working a job here, and it would’ve been too much to go back and forth. UCLC is an amazing opportunity for students who are unable to go away or can’t afford to."
After graduating, Lopez got a job locally in the Round Lake Area Schools District as a teacher’s assistant in a preschool special education class.
This position helped Lopez realize she wanted to work with special needs children. She decided to pursue a master’s degree in elementary education teaching, and once again took advantage of the UCLC being close to home, taking classes there with National Louis University.
“At this point I was married and had a one-year-old,” she said. “I knew if there was a teaching program at UCLC, I was going to do it.”
Following receiving her first master’s degree, Lopez got a new job within the Round Lake Area Schools District as a bilingual resource teacher. With this position, she supports Spanish-speaking special education students in their native language. Lopez, whose parents are from Mexico, grew up in a Spanish-speaking home and was an ESL student at CLC.
Lopez is currently working on a second master’s degree in early education and special education online through National Louis University. She’s also working on earning her ESL Endorsement at CLC.
“CLC made it possible for me to continue going to school,” Lopez said. “The college does more than it will ever know for students like me.”
College of Lake County is a comprehensive community college committed to equitable high-quality education, cultural enrichment and partnerships to advance the diverse communities it serves in northeastern Illinois. Offered at three campuses in Grayslake, Vernon Hills and Waukegan or online, college classes are affordable and accessible to help each student achieve academic, career and personal goals. More than 70,000 students graduated with degrees and certificates since the college opened in 1969. College of Lake County is the only higher-education institution ranked among the top 15 best places to work in Illinois by Forbes and is a national leader in many areas, including sustainability and conservation.
“CLC offers so much more than cost savings. I’ve received an excellent education that’s a good stepping stone to my goal of becoming a marriage counselor.”
“CLC is such a welcoming environment for international students. Within my first year here, I was helping other international students as a student ambassador.”
“I rediscovered my love of chemistry at CLC. My professor was such a great teacher and passionate about chemistry that it was easy to go to class and learn.”
“CLC has absolutely played a role in changing my educational and career goals. I had space to explore different fields and talk to many knowledgeable people about careers and opportunities.”
“I loved my education courses. The professors bring a lot of experiences into their classrooms, and everything we learn builds from class to class.”
“The nursing skills lab at the Grayslake Campus is great because the equipment is similar to what nurses use on the job. The clinicals were also great hands-on learning experiences, and the CLC instructors have a great relationship with area hospitals and clinics.”
“I have enjoyed all the instructors in the horticulture department, especially their expertise and practical work experiences. All the classes that I have taken are pertinent to my career choice.”
“CLC's field school in Belize was my first official exposure to anthropology in general and archaeology in specific. The college's field study trips are a great way to gain in-depth exposure on a field one might be considering.”
“Really get to know your professors; they are the ones who will write you a letter of recommendation in a few years, so keep in touch with them.”
“The business expertise and management advice from my small business advisor has been extremely helpful from our first meeting and to this day. He has helped me create a clear vision for the future of my company and a detailed action plan to execute it.”
“The automotive technology program has smaller class sizes than at competing schools. That's really important, because it allows more hands-on experience and a better-quality education.”
“College is the best decision I ever made. As a senior at Zion-Benton High School, I received a scholarship to CLC. I thought, “This is an opportunity.””
“The entire Illinois SBDC International Trade Center staff is an invaluable resource – always available, honest and thorough. If there is a subject outside their realm, they have a network of referrals who are experienced in that field.”
“The Truck Driver Training course built my confidence and really prepared me well for a successful career in this field.”
“In my first semester at the U of I, I attained a GPA of 3.8. CLC did a great job of preparing me for classes at one of the top engineering schools in the world.”
“I chose CLC’s Small Business Development Center for guidance and help meeting people who have already gone through the process of starting a business. They are a great team of experts to have on my side.”
“I became the first community college student accepted as an intern at a newsroom in Erie, Penn., thanks to my experiences on The CLC Chronicle and working with Professor Kupetz. That first internship opened many doors for me.”
“I am currently working part-time as a paralegal while enrolled as a full-time student in Roosevelt University’s Paralegal Studies program. If I had not received the education I had from CLC, I would not have the part-time job.”
“What I like especially about the mechatronics classes is the hands-on learning and the helpful instructors who want you to succeed. We also went on field trips to companies, where we got a chance to see practical, real-world examples of ideas such as building and maintaining assembly lines.”
“CLC is super well-rounded and excels at pretty much everything it does. It's really cool to know that no matter what you want, you have a strong chance at success at CLC.”
“The course prepared me for a veterinary assistant job and the externship was a great part of the reason I felt prepared.”
“CLC is a melting pot; a microcosm of America. The students come from so many different backgrounds and contexts, that you learn almost as much from your classmates as you do from your courses.”
“Margie Porter, who is chair of the mechatronics technology program, understands the challenge of juggling a job, college courses and raising a family. She helps you build your self-confidence in learning the material.”
“One great part of CLC's hospitality and culinary management program is the opportunity to put together a portfolio of your work. It teaches you how to be organized and professional, and it's a great thing to carry into a job interview.”
“I believe that everyone in a classroom serves as a teacher and a student. I take pride in knowing that all of our communication courses have the potential to be life-changing experiences for our students.”
“To create the 'a-ha' moment in my public speaking classes, I set the pace from day one, creating an environment in which my students will feel safe and comfortable.”
“I use many different teaching methods, including: journaling, readings, oral quizzes, in-class and out-of-class activities, role plays, group discussion, media, group work and providing many examples.”
“Whether teaching online or onsite, I encourage active discussions in which students interact with each other as well as the course material.”
“When assigning papers, I encourage my students to choose their subjects carefully. If students can write about a subject about which they are passionate, they will write better papers.”
“Looking back, I had instructors who helped me to see and appreciate the joy, wonder and mystery that exists in the world all around me-whether it is in nature, science and people, or in stories, essays and poetry. I try to do the same thing for my students.”
“I teach because I want to help students imagine a better life for themselves. When they do that, they will be able to imagine a better world for all of us. And that is pretty cool.”
“I knew that I wanted to be a college instructor when I was an undergrad student at UCLA. I would come out of my English classes thrilled with the possibilities that language and literature created.”
“I find it gratifying when I stimulate the students' minds and to see how they go beyond what we do in class; some decide to pursue the subject as a future career. It is very rewarding to know that I can make a difference in students' lives.”
“I enjoy seeing my students learn and grow in their skills, knowledge, confidence, dedication and their passion for making a difference in the lives of young children and their families.”
“I assess myself by the quality of the engineer that I turn out. Often, I am contacted by students who say that their job requires all of those things they complained about having to learn during the program, and that they appreciate me for not backing down.”
“I maintain an open, questioning environment that encourages all reasonable experiments. In addition, I interweave real-world experiences and practical life skills with the subject material.”
“My main goal is to connect with students in a way that motivates them to learn the material deeply, not just to pass a test. And I really enjoy getting to know students on a personal basis and helping them along the path to being an engineer.”
“As an engineering educator, I am in a unique position: I'm educating individuals who will create and use technology that does not exist today.”
“I want to pass to my students my clinical knowledge and abilities to help them to be the best clinician they can be. My goal is to change their lives for the better.”
“My goal is not only to teach the necessary skills involved in treating patients, but to create meaningful experiences where students can grow and develop into true professionals.”
“I want to prepare graduates to be compassionate, critical-thinking professionals who are committed to life-long learning and promote health and the prevention of disease.”
“Teaching is more than transferring knowledge. I truly want students to succeed in life and in our profession.”
“I incorporate an assortment of teaching methods, including multimedia technology, problem-based learning and hands-on/experiential activities.”
“I emphasize that professional nursing education is a continuous, life-long learning process.”
“I love the chance to create special places that people enjoy, and leaving behind work that will grow and evolve with time.”
“I try to share my passion, skills and experiences to help students learn skills, techniques, concepts and teamwork so they are prepared - not only to graduate, but to work in the hospitality field.”
“Helping put students in a position to make a difference in others' lives - that's what makes my job so rewarding.”
“I am passionate about inspiring new students to understand and embrace the rapidly changing knowledge base in the substance-use fields, particularly as it relates to new brain science, strength-based approaches for treatment and evidence-based practices.”
“I love seeing students' minds expand throughout the semester. The students transform through applying philosophical theories and concepts to their own lived experiences.”
“My most memorable teaching experience is to observe a student enter the program with a specific career goal in mind, and after hard work in our program, obtain a specific job working for the company of his or her dreams.”
“I want to help students become problem solvers in the computer information technology field.”
“Teaching allows me to have a profound and lasting positive effect upon the professions in the criminal justice system, especially law enforcement. I enjoyed being a police officer very much, and I strive to pass on my love for the profession through my teaching.”
“While attending high school, I joined my community's rescue squad, and I soon realized that firefighting and rescue work was my calling in life. It's been rewarding to help people who are experiencing some of the worst days of their life.”
“My main goal is to help students understand and appreciate that education is a way of life rather than a journey to a job.”
“What excites me most about teaching is that I get to witness, time and time again, the transformation from student to polished professional.”
“When I was a CLC student, it was such a great experience because the teachers really care about the students. I decided I wanted to teach biology at a community college, and I still can't believe that I am here. It truly is a dream come true.”
“I tell my students that I am successful not when they finish my class but when I hear that they have graduated from an allied health program.”
“I consider the needs of students every time I plan activities and goals for class. As a result, I utilize multiple teaching strategies, from lecture to a small-group critical thinking activity. In addition, I set and communicate high expectations and teach students how to successfully reach these goals.”
“To create the 'aha' moment in students, I always try to connect classroom topics to common life experiences and use labs and demonstrations to reinforce lectures. One learns more by doing than by hearing.”
“I try to relate course concepts directly to real life. For example, there are real-time weather discussions in my meteorology classes, where students see how the course material applies directly to the weather that affects their lives.”
“Teaching is not just about sharing knowledge, but - most importantly - inspiring students and helping them become life-long learners.”
“My main goal is to help students gain a deep understanding of the underlying concepts we are learning and move beyond the memorization of formulas.”
“My main goal is to reduce the number of people who say, 'I'm not good at math.'”
“Mathematics is so much easier to understand when you concentrate on learning concepts, not memorizing procedures. In my classes, we ask and seek answers questions like, 'What does this mean?' and 'Why does this make sense?'”
“I teach using guided notes and a tablet laptop in order to keep students engaged. Writing on a tablet instead of the chalkboard or whiteboard allows me to face my class, so I can see their reactions and more easily promote discussion.”
“My philosophy of teaching can be summed up by, 'Meet students where they are. Help them move forward.'”
“A student who transferred to Northern Illinois University and took calculus classes there emailed me to thank me for teaching her to be a more prepared student and to learn math throughout the entire semester, instead of cramming.”
“My passion for cars started when I was a young boy, holding a drop light for my dad as he worked on the family car. As time went on, I grew up and my Hot Wheels® cars just got bigger and faster.”
“CLC students are trying to be somebody, to make a difference. I want to understand their needs and help them to get the most out of their time here.”
“I'm fascinated with economics' application to everyday life. When we make decisions related to purchases, or when we make choices about what we will do with our time and resources, it relates to the field of economics.”
“In my classes, students learn that history is not a set of static facts, but a dynamic and active process of interpretation.”
“History explains the world to us. CLC offers many opportunities for faculty and students to travel widely in the world. My travels in Jordan, the Netherlands and in several other countries have broadened my experience and helped me to be a better teacher.”
“I seek to make connections between course content and students' lives and to build relationships with and among students in the classroom. Students flourish when working together toward a common goal and when they realize that they can rely on their peers and professors for support and information.”
“I cannot compete with a smartphone in terms of overall information. Consequently, my teaching objective is not just to disseminate information, which students can get from a variety of sources, but rather to assist students in applying this information in real-world situations.”
“I'm fascinated by psychology's mystery as well as its different explanations, theories and philosophical assumptions about human nature. Perhaps most important, the field has the potential to help people live better.”
“I am humbled and grateful for the opportunity to help students navigate college and make decisions that will have a lasting impact on their lives and families.”
“I want my students to be able to recognize the extent to which society influences most of what we do and think, but that we can also change the course of society. To achieve this goal, I often provide a range of different examples and activities. ”
“I believe my students should be active participants in the learning process, and the material should be directly connected to their outside experiences. At the end of the semester, I hope they leave with the belief that they can change the world!”
“Using genealogy and popular culture allows me to make connections for students to unfamiliar sociological theories, by utilizing something they know (their family history; favorite TV shows, or movies) as a starting point.”
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