Kathy Yerdon, BSRT, is a Respiratory Care program instructor at our Phoenix, AZ, campus. We’re delighted to announce that Kathy has been awarded the 2012 Carrington College ‘Commitment to Teaching Excellence’ award for Respiratory Care.
Kathy has been part of the Carrington family for almost 5 years, and this is her first teaching role. She was nominated by the Executive Director of the Phoenix campus, Val Colmone.
Val, why did you nominate Kathy for this award?
“Kathy is always trying to find different teaching methods that keep her students excited and engaged in their learning. For example, I know she uses cow lungs to demonstrate pulmonary expansion and the effect of PEEP in the lungs. She is truly committed to her students, confirmed by the fact that she provides additional tutoring after class every day.”
So Kathy, how does it feel to be recognized for your work?
“It was very nice, and very surprising! I thought nobody had noticed! Professionally it’s validation that I’m doing a good job and a reaffirmation that I can do this, and I can do it well. Personally it reinforces that this is the right fit for me. This is definitely a job that makes me happy, and learning that what I do makes other people happy is very satisfying.”
What made you want to become an instructor?
“I’ve always wanted to teach; when I was very young I remember playing school with my sister. I think it was just something I was destined to do because I like helping people. I actually started going to college to become a teacher, but then at 19 I had a baby who was later diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis. That diagnosis led me in to a career in Respiratory Therapy; his illness obviously piqued my interest in the field, and the schooling was much quicker than going for a degree in education. But I always had that desire to teach in the back of my mind, maybe because I like showing off what I know… I don’t know! ”
You obviously inspire your students, was there a particular teacher that inspired you?
“There was a Respiratory Therapist instructor at my school, a lady named Donna Pachek; she inspired me to want to become a better therapist. She insisted that we should never say ‘I’m going to quickly go do this procedure then I’ll be back.’ She instilled the belief in me that every procedure is as important as the next, so never to rush and always think about what you’re doing. That’s something I try to instill in my students too – you should never approach anything assuming it will be easy. Always be prepared in case something goes wrong.’
So after 11 years working as a Respiratory Therapist, what made you finally make the change?
“A friend of mine works here on campus; she mentioned that there was an opening and asked whether I’d be interested. I thought ‘wow, here’s my in!’ It dropped into my lap really, and it was the perfect opportunity for me. It wasn’t a life changing moment or anything; I was just lucky an opportunity came up and I jumped at the chance!”
When did you know that teaching was the career for you?
“I remember, probably about 3 years ago, one of my students had graduated and just passed her Board exams. She sent me an email thanking me, saying that she couldn’t have done it without me, and that I had inspired her to do well. That was a big moment for me; the moment I thought ‘I can do this, and I can do it well. I’m doing it right.’ It really felt great to be appreciated by a student, because that’s why I’m here – I’m here for them and no-one else.”
So what’s your motivation, what gets you out of bed every day?
“Knowing that my students are there waiting for me is a big part of my motivation. I’m here for them. But personally, my son’s chronic illness means that he’s been a respiratory patient for years, and I’ve seen both good and bad therapists take care of him. I want all of my students to be ‘the good therapist’. I want to ensure that my students become the best they can be, so they can go on to help other kids like my son. I know what they need to know, and I want to be the one to teach them. I guess that’s my true motivation.”
This award recognizes your individual excellence; what makes a great instructor excel?
“The big thing they have to have is humility. They have to be able to admit that, even though we are experts in our field, we don’t know everything and we shouldn’t pretend to know everything. We’re humans and we all make mistakes – the big thing is to learn from those mistakes. So in that respect instructors also need to be honest, that’s very important.
We need to praise students when they do well, but also make sure they learn from their mistakes. We’re talking about peoples’ health; it couldn’t be any more important. Humor is also essential; I take my class very seriously, but you have to try to have fun where you can.
What techniques do you use to engage your students in the classroom?
“I’m pretty old school in one respect; I want my students to take notes rather than hand them a copy of the PowerPoint document we are working from. That makes them really listen. I try to include quirky little videos or pictures where I can change it up a little; images that show things that I personally can’t demonstrate. I don’t follow the same routine in every class every day either. Every group of students is completely different.
I also make sure we do lots of lab work so my students can get hands-on with the equipment. I can explain things till I’m blue in the face, but until they can actually touch and use the equipment it doesn’t come full circle.”
When you get home at the end of the day, what makes you think you’ve had a good day?
“A good day is when I know my students, hopefully all of them, have left knowing something that they didn’t know at the start of the day. When a student says ‘oh I get it’ and can explain something back to me using their own words, that’s really gratifying and shows that they grasped what I was talking about.”
Congratulations again Kathy on this well deserved award. This honor is a testament to your “Commitment to Teaching Excellence”; it recognizes your continued dedication to students at our Phoenix campus. The combination of your lifelong passion for teaching and your commitment to improving the standards of respiratory care for patients like your son has made you a valuable part of the Carrington family.
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