I write the words to share what my eyes see and my heart feels
As suggested in last weeks writings there is much more that I wanted to share of my teaching experiences at Alfred State College (ASC). I had been taught by so many great professors and was truly blessed when they became teaching colleagues. There are still many stories to be told along those lines but I would like to step aside from that to share some “student” stories. It’s hard to write “snippets” and set the context so bear with me as I epilogue the adventures with a brief history or explanation before getting to the heart of the story.
My experiences with High School guidance counselors left something to be desired when expecting or hoping that they could steer more students into better paying or experience building “technical” careers. The “Arts and Sciences”, not technical, electrical or mechanical, often seemed to take a front seat but that is understandable I guess, as the career counselors typically had limited experience themselves in those career areas.
I had often been blessed with a few “non-traditional” students age wise, history wise or otherwise. This one particular year I had a young single parent lady in my Computer Aided Manufacturing class and had asked her if she would display her project work , and give a little of her background to a cohort of Guidance Counselors that were being given a tour of our labs. She was obviously not of typical college age and after explaining her project and stating that she did wish that she had started college earlier, and in this field, a counselor asked if she could ask a somewhat personal question. My student replied: “Yes, of course.” The counselor asked why she had waited so long before seeking a career in that job field. The student very politely, but bluntly, replied that her high school guidance counselor had convinced her that this was not a career field that a female would be interested in. Dead silence.
Backing up to mention my very first class of students, I was teaching a class in what I presumed would remain my area of expertise, that being Drafting/Design. One of the students, while not causing any real disturbance, was quite vocal and outspoken while working independently on his projects, but talking to others. After a couple of classes I casually walked back and engaged him in quiet conversation and it kept him from disturbing other students. We hit it off pretty well from then on. Near the end of the semester one of his classmates happened to stop by my office for a chat. During the course of the conversation the student said he was surprised that “Rob” and I seemed to get along so well. I commented that he was easy to get along with once you got to know him. He then mentioned that they had gone to high school together at a school in Rochester and asked if I had heard that Rob had once been arrested for threatening one of his teachers with a knife. Glad it wasn’t me. I got along with him just fine.
Another experience one day in that first year, that was more personal than scholarly, happened when one of my student advisees came running into my office crying her eyes out. I asked her to have a seat so she could calm down and tell me what had happened. She explained that one of her teachers, in the class that she was presently in, had hollered at her for doing some trivial thing and it was very upsetting. I knew the faculty member (who was named in last weeks “Wrambling”) and he did have a reputation for being a little tough on female students. I had another emotional experience with another young lady who had a similar encounter with a faculty member. She was a daughter of a close family friend, and also a part of what I refer to as “The Family of Three”.
In all my years of teaching I honestly cannot remember any one student that I would say that I didn’t like, but some that I do, a little more than others. There were some that were a challenge to put up with on occasion, but I wouldn’t classify that as not liking them as an individual. There are some that particularly stand out, are noteworthy, and do hold a little larger part of my heart with my memories of them. I recall one other “adult learner” single mother, now a lifetime friend, who was like a “mother hen” to that group who were referred to by my faculty colleagues as “Wiser’s Crew”. That motherly student was also in my office, in tears on another day, having been in a confrontation with one of “the guys” in the class of particularly exuberant male characters. That was certainly a very challenging class, but one that I learned to appreciate more as my retirement day approached. As a parting gesture on my last day I played a video of me, as part of an ASC faculty quartet who had been invited to kick off a Buffalo Sabers game by singing the American and Canadian National Anthem, on the ice, at center court. The Sabers beat Atlanta 8 – 0 that game. The class gave me a standing ovation and a few hugs. They were standing to leave anyway.
My scariest day or event as a Lab Instructor was caused by a student, having a mental lapse, not paying attention to his task, and gazing around the room while machining a work piece. His carelessness resulted in getting his hand caught between a milling cutter and the work piece. Other than some skinned knuckles and a broken finger it wasn’t quite as serious as it might have been. After the fact, and his eventual return from St. James ER, delayed, I might add, as they put him in an examination room and forgot about him, I had felt it prudent to call his parents directly. That scared me more than what had happened in the lab. Fortunately, I ended up speaking to the father, who owns and runs a machine shop. He told me his son had some prior shop experience and should have known better than to not be paying attention to what he was doing.
At the top of the list of most honored and humbling experiences in my teaching career was having been nominated for, and selected as, the 1991 School of Engineering Technologies Teacher of the Year I was nominated by the daughter of an old time Air Preheater colleague Bill Loughlin. Not 100% sure of her married name so I will leave her name just as “Heather”.
Within a department, faculty are assigned a certain number of students as “advisees”. It is our job to keep them on track with class scheduling and be there for them as a go between with other departments and/or administration officials if they needed assistance. These students typically are from their traditional curriculum, have a faculty adviser, and take classes accordingly. Usually these are the ones with whom we form a little closer bond. Sometimes a student from a different curriculum can take my classes as they are closely related to, or tie into, theirs as a “Technical Elective”. One such student, Anne (Lucey) Ganguzza, paired with Jeannine Pagliacci as project partners were taking my Computer Aided Drafting/Computer Aided Manufacturing (Cad-CAM) class. They were jointly working on a design-build project. While they were a true team jointly working on all phases and aspects of the very successful project, including some near “all nighters” as project completion time approached. Anne wanted to produce family gifts of the project, and put in extra time “in production. Anne was a little more motivated, dedicated, and blossomed into what I now consider at least in the top 5 all time students. I would rate her as #1 but that wouldn’t be fair to the 4 behind her that are tied for #2.
Anne’s student project at one time graced the Governor’s mansion having been gifted to Mario Cuomo, then Governor of New York State, when he visited Alfred State College, somewhat accidently. Story has it that he thought he would be visiting Alfred University (AU), which he did, but somehow ended up on our campus first, squeezing an already full schedule. I was given the honor of touring him through our Automated Manufacturing Lab and demonstrating our CNC Machining Center as it machined the ASC Clock that Anne and her teammate Jeannine had designed and fabricated. In order to complete their project by the end of the semester and also to be able to make enough clocks to be given as family gifts we spent many, many hours, after hours, running the parts both in wood for the base and brass for the clock face and mechanism. We knew our time with the Governor in my lab was going to have to move quickly so as to not make the Governor late for his visit at AU across the street. I told the Governor that “batteries indeed were included”, a spin off from advertising schemes that used that phrase at the time, and that if he ended up late for his meeting at AU he could blame me and could show them the clock and tell them that it was running a little behind, or maybe even stopped, excusing his lateness.
As you read along with the narrative that follows, it will describe a student success story not all that uncommon for Alfred State College students and shows just how far you can go and how well succeed with a degree from this little back woods institution in Allegany County. Mr. Golisano of Paychex fame might very well echo those same sentiments.
As a further item of perhaps local interest, Anne’s aunt Dr. Carol Lucey, was an Academic Vice President at ASC while Anne was a student there. I am not sure I was aware of their relationship at the time but of course the name similarity was a clue.
That one semester with Anne as my student has stretched now to many years of close friendship and professional association. I normally hesitate to use full student names when writing about or referring to them, but, having Anne mention my name in an interview/overview of her own internationally acclaimed company, I owe her payback. Anne graduated from ASC with a degree in Computer Graphics Technology and eventually ended up teaching at New Jersey Institute of Technology in that related field. I brought Anne on campus during that stretch of her career as a presenter to a joint meeting of our student chapters of The Society of Manufacturing Engineers and The American Society of Mechanical Engineers and her Graphics and Automation topics presentation was very well received. I lost track of Anne for a while but she then reappeared on my Facebook radar as the owner of a nationally recognized and awarded Voice Over Company. By simplistic definition “Voice Over” is a production technique that is “a piece of narration in a movie or broadcast, not accompanied by an image of the speaker”
Anne Ganguzza is a full-time voice talent and award-winning director and producer who works with students to develop their voice over (VO) and business skills – including VO demo training and production. She specializes in Conversational Commercial and narration styles, including Corporate, E-Learning, Medical, Telephony and On Hold. A partial listing of Anne’s VO credits include Delta, Mercedes Benz, Hyundai, Acura, PayPal, Wells Fargo, Michelin, Credit Suisse, Cisco, Toyota, Panasonic, Mitsubishi, Telecore, Synchronix, and Xerox. Anne’s networking group, the VO Peeps, offers meetups and workouts with incredible opportunities for feedback and growth; while her VO BOSS podcast can be heard weekly around the globe, and highlights prescient industry topics with a fresh take on what’s happening in voice over.
For more information about Anne or her prestigious company you can visit www.anneganguzza.com.
I think that most dedicated and successful teachers would admit that we don’t really make the students excel, they make us look good. They have it in their power to be what they become, in some cases, in spite of us. All we have to do is open the door, turn on their lights, and watch them shine.