Occupation: Meteorologist, "Good Day Chicago" morning news, Fox 32 Chicago (WFLD-TV)
Transfer school: Illinois State University; graduated with a B.S. in mass communications in 1984.
Interests and hobbies: Portrait, commercial and wildlife photography, teaching photography, travel.
Q & A with Mike Caplan
What prompted you to enroll at CLC?
I attended Northwestern University for my first semester of college, but I just wasn’t ready for the experience. So I withdrew at the end of the first semester and enrolled at CLC. It was close to Gurnee, my home, and it had small class sizes and offered students individual attention. CLC became a wonderful place to regroup, and it certainly changed my life for the better. With the help of caring instructors, I later narrowed my choice of careers to meteorology and television news.
Which courses did you find especially helpful?
In a journalism course taught by Jerry Pinkham, he handed out a list of common grammatical mistakes that some reporters make, such as incorrect subject/verb agreement. One example is incorrectly using a plural verb after the word “neither,” instead of a singular verb. Most of Jerry’s grammatical pointers were intended for print journalists, but I found the tips to be eye-opening, and I use them to this day.
I also enjoyed physical and cultural geography courses taught by Noel Stirrat. Geography plays a big role in meteorology, and Noel had a combination of unbridled enthusiasm for the subject matter and a refreshing way of conveying the information. The geographical terms and concepts stayed with me 20 years later, when I was enrolled in an oceanography course at Mississippi State University.
If you have an instructor who has a passion for subject, you have more successful learning environment. Just about all of my CLC instructors had that passion, and the small class sizes allowed me to get to know the instructor and ask questions before or after class.
What did your CLC broadcasting experience consist of, and how did it help you?
I was a disc jockey for the campus radio station, WCLC, and I was “on the air” for an hour or two, three days a week. Our audience was those in Lancers cafeteria, where the studio consisted of a small closet with a couple of (record) turntables and a microphone. I was able to parlay that experience into DJ gigs at local nightclubs and a Zion radio station. Those broadcasting experiences, beginning at CLC, gave me a foundation and were stepping stones for later work in television.
How valuable was your experience as a reporter for the Chronicle, CLC’s student newspaper?
I was a reporter who did enterprise stories, which are not based on press releases or news conferences, but stories that I uncovered on my own. It was another great experience, and I later discovered that writing for the eye (print journalism) is different from writing for the ear. In a newspaper story, sentences can be longer with many clauses. The audience can re-read at its discretion. For TV, points must be made concisely and in a manner that holds the audience’s attention. When visuals are added, the TV news writer must take care to match the picture with the words. If I’m writing about rescue crews arriving on the scene, I don’t want to show video of people playing in the nearby park. With both forms of reporting, you learn to boil down your information to what’s pith, or essential. When I moved into television news, it was a fairly natural transition from print.
In addition to your work as a meteorologist at Fox 32 Chicago, you now teach part-time at CLC, correct?
Yes. For two years, I have been co-teaching at least two personal enrichment courses in photography each semester. This spring, one course focuses on iPhone photography and the other covers portrait lighting. I enjoy being in a creative setting and sharing with others what I’ve mastered in photography.
How important is it to keep building one’s skills to stay employable, especially in mid-life?
It’s really important. In fact, deepening my knowledge of social media played a big part in my return to TV. Research has shown that the number one source of news in the U.S. is Facebook, and at Fox 32, there is a high priority placed on social media to augment the audience.
When ABC7 Chicago released me in 2014, my wife, Laura, and I embarked on a campaign to reconnect with viewers, and we decided that we’d amp up our Facebook presence. So we created a social media weather space unique to this market. Competitors who had social media outlets amounted to using video forecast replays from their TV news programs.
In April 2015, when there was a notable severe outbreak in the Chicago area, Laura and I set up a studio in our basement. All that day and night, we recorded one- to three-minute video updates, showing radar, and we posted these on our Facebook page. We had thousands of engaged viewers. It demonstrated the success of social media, in that it is an immediate, two-way, interactive communication—compared to television, which is unidirectional.
When a tornado went through the Chicago area in August 2015, I was updating our Facebook and Twitter page all afternoon. A friend who is a weather geek and a regular contributor to my page was in the Round Lake/Grayslake area that evening and saw flashes of sparks coming from transformers. That’s almost a telltale sign of a tornado touching down. He and I were in almost constant contact during the height of the storm, enabling me warn my followers of the tornado one minute before the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning.
I give my wife, Laura, a tremendous amount of credit for doing the research on social media and providing a great deal of assistance in enhancing my Facebook page and the level of engagement from viewers. She also has given presentations to area business groups on how to build a social media presence and build customer engagement.
Don’t just show up for courses. Do everything you can to maximize your experience at the college. Get involved in extracurricular activities. Besides working on the campus newspaper and radio station, I played trombone in the jazz band and was a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. Today, there are so many more student clubs and things to do outside of class than in the early 1980s, when I was on campus. You want to learn and pass your courses to earn credits, but at same time, college has a social component that is important.
“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.”
Connect with CLC