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Phi Theta Kappa Owl Mentors

Pima Community College’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa honor society shows recognition for their Owl Mentors. The Owl Mentors are:

Toufha Alkhlifa

Brenda Ayon

Odell Baskerville

Jon Bell

Mary H. Ber

Dr. Cheryl K. Blake

Dr. Katherine Broneck

Lucia Cataldo-Ottieri

Dr. Jodylee Estrada Duek

Melinda Franz

Alan Glazier

Dr. Mischala Grill

Khalil Halawani

Susan Heinrich

Dr. Matt Hinojosa

Lisa Jurkowitz

Billy Kidd

Andrea Kooshian

Larry Kull

Meagan Lehr

Rene’ Luedeman

Linda Marks

Evelyn Martinez

Sarah Masse

Edward L. McDonald

Tommie Miller

Karrie Mitchell

Sandra Paulick

Dr. Michael Radloff

Donald “Uncle Don” Roberts Sr.

Andrea Robinson

Dr. Steven Salmoni

Dr. Thomas Selegue

Dr. Matthew Price Smith

Mary Speidel

Dr. Pamela Sulger

Leslie Taylor

Pamela Walter

Donald Wark  – Was nominated by two people.

Bonnie K. Willis

Aztec Press wins prestigious national awards

Aztec Press wins prestigious national awards

The Spring 2010 Aztec Press staff gathers for a group photo. The student newspaper will resume publication in the fall, on Sept. 2.

Aztec Press won a pair of prestigious first-place regional awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, then was named a national finalist in both categories.

At the SPJ regional conference in San Francisco on May 1, the Aztec Press won a first-place Mark of Excellence award for all-around best newspaper for two-year colleges.

Senior reporter Liza Porter captured an individual first-place Mark of Excellence award in feature writing for her series on non-traditional students, “Going Back, Looking Forward.”

First-place winners advance to the national level. In competition against 11 other regions, the Aztec Press entries reached the top three and were named national finalists.

Aztec Press Editor in Chief Daniel Gaona accepts a first-place regional award from Kevin Smith, SPJ national president, in San Francisco.

Related story: Opinion page  farewell column by Editor in Chief Daniel Gaona:

http://aztecpressonline.com/wp-admin/post.php?action=edit&post=3036

Going back: moving forward 1: Single parent makes college a priority

Going back: moving forward 1: Single parent makes college a priority

Editor’s note: The Aztec Press presents its award-winning series from Fall 2009. This series, “Going back: moving forward,” tells the stories of nontraditional students who have returned to school—some after a few years, others after many. “Going back: moving forward” won first place for Feature Writing in the Society of Professional Journalists regional 2-year/community college category. It reached the top three nationally, to become a nationalist finalist.

Story by Liza Porter
Photo by Jessica Canchola

Jennifer Stockdale has had a difficult life, but is determined to earn an associate degree and go on to the University of Arizona to study political science. After that, she plans to attend law school.

The single parent is in her last semester at Pima Community College. Born and raised in Tucson, Stockdale earned her GED soon after dropping out of high school. She tried college then, but was working full time and couldn’t handle it.

In the midst of an abusive relationship, Stockdale woke up one day and saw what a bad place she was in. “I realized I didn’t deserve it,” she says. Starting over was a long process. She began believing in herself and enrolled in college.

Despite her difficulties, she maintains a positive attitude. Her laughter is contagious.

Stockdale, 34, has red hair and freckles. On interview day, she wore a green T-shirt that accents her eyes, and tan knee-length shorts. Like many women in the desert heat, she pulled her hair back into a scrunched-up ponytail.

Working part time, going to school and raising two daughters ages 6 and 14 is difficult. In fact, “it sucks,” she says, laughing.

Then Stockdale changes her mind. “It doesn’t suck,” she continues. She appreciates the opportunity to go to college and do something more with her life. She works very hard at her classes.

Money is tight but Stockdale and her daughters live with her mother. “She’s not charging me rent, which is a huge help,” Stockdale says.

Her mother raised Stockdale and her siblings alone. “She really did it on her own, so she understands.”

Stockdale is the only one of her siblings to go to college. Her mother was the first one in her family to get a degree, as well.

One reason Stockdale went back to school is because she read “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand when her oldest daughter was a baby. The book affected her deeply, partly because the characters were older.

Stockdale realized, “I’m still young! I still have time to live.” She promised herself that when her daughters were in school, she’d go back to college.

A job provided another reason. While employed as a nanny, the couple she worked for told her: “We’re not renewing your contract. We love you and the kids love you, but what are you doing here?”

She laughs as she tells the story. “They said ‘Go back to school! You’re fired!’” She laughs again. She sees the couple as role models. They are several years older than Stockdale, and have become very successful.

Besides working as a nanny, Stockdale has a Montessori teaching certificate. She’s also worked in restaurants and retail stores, and she’s been a delivery driver. Sometimes she held two or three jobs at a time to support her children.

Now she works Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at Target, in addition to attending PCC full time.

Stockdale’s weekdays go something like this: Get up at 6 a.m., wake her daughters, make sure they have breakfast, get them to school. She uses the time before and between classes to do her homework, and schedules her classes so she can be with the girls in the afternoons.

“They’re very independent,” she says. She wants her daughters to be successful, and often tells them: “Get the scholarships, work hard now.”

Besides traditional classes, Stockdale has taken one online class in biology. She liked the class and recommends online instruction but says she “failed miserably at self-paced.” Laughing, she admit: “Can’t do it.”

Her favorite subject is political science, “though Plato was kind of crazy.”

Instructors at Pima have been very tolerant about her role as a single parent, she says. During a family emergency last spring, her instructors were understanding.

“But, you have to be a good student,” she says. In her experience, instructors aren’t as flexible with people who don’t take school seriously.

When asked what type of law she’d like to practice once she obtains a legal degree, Stockdale says, “not criminal,” and laughs. She might specialize in family law, estate planning or tax law. She wants to help people navigate the legal system, noting “that is really hard.”

She’s tolerant of other’s viewpoints and doesn’t have rigid stances on issues, so doesn’t think she’d be a good litigator or criminal attorney. “I don’t know,” Stockdale says. “We’ll just have to see.”

Stockdale notes there are more women in law school than ever before. “And older people,” she says. “They want me. I’m old.” She laughs.

By the numbers:
(Source: Pima Web site)
• Average age: 27
• 56% women; 44% men
• 71% part-time; 29% full-time
• 42% ethnic minorities

Originally published September 17, 2009

2: Work at Orphanage Provides Inspiration
3: Self Taught ‘techie’ re-engineers himself
4: Life ‘controlled chaos’ for military student
5: Retiree takes classes just for pleasure
6: Renaissance woman enjoys life-long learning
7: Journalist switching careers to teaching

Going back: moving forward 2: Work at Orphanage Provides Inspiration

Going back: moving forward 2: Work at Orphanage Provides Inspiration

Editor’s note: The Aztec Press presents its award-winning series from Fall 2009. This series, “Going back: moving forward,” tells the stories of nontraditional students who have returned to school—some after a few years, others after many. “Going back: moving forward” won first place for Feature Writing in the Society of Professional Journalists regional 2-year/community college category. It reached the top three nationally, to become a nationalist finalist.

Story by Liza Porter
Photo by Jessica Canchola

When Christina Lee worked in an orphanage in Indonesia for six weeks during the summer of 2008, it changed her life. It is one of the reasons she decided to go back to college.

The 28-year old is tall and thin, with long brown hair and piercing brown eyes. She pauses as she thinks about what to say next, and laughs easily as she relates her experiences.

Like the orphans in Djakarta, Lee knows about starting over.

“I’ve been in a lot of really bad, abusive relationships,” she says.

She did not believe in herself. If you’d told her a few years ago she’d be attending Pima Community College any time soon, she might have called you crazy.

“I didn’t see any purpose for the academic side of high school,” Lee says. “I think it’s just because of the way I grew up, without any structure.” She had a hard time focusing in school, with all the chaos in her home.

When Lee dropped out of high school she went to work. She has worked many different jobs: camp counselor, house framer and painter, bartender, waitress and pastry chef, among others.

When she was 18, Lee passed the GED. “It was pretty easy,” she says, laughing.

Lee believes a higher power was watching out for her during her troubles earlier in life.

“Some people are taught what they’re supposed to do,” she says in a reflective voice. “Some people have to learn everything on their own.”

It’s almost unexplainable, Lee says. “When things got really bad and scary, something would happen to get me out of the situation.”

One relationship made her fear for her life.

“You’re so blind when you’re doing this stuff… you have to be slapped in the face” to realize you should be doing something different. “Sometimes several times.” She laughs again. Her sense of humor is part of what keeps her going. She feels lucky to be where she is today.

Working in the orphanage in Jakarta opened her heart to a different world. She’d worked with children before, but “never with kids that had been through the things these children had been through.”

The children in Jakarta were so afraid they had to sleep with their eyes open. “Some of the kids are beaten so badly, they can’t talk,” Lee says.

She realized her problems paled in comparison. “It’s one thing to hear about stuff like that, it’s another to see the effects, you know, of the horrible things that happened to the kids.”

Lee thinks people in the United States don’t know how good they have it. “You can do anything you want here and get help. There are resources for almost everything. It’s not perfect, but there’s no perfect place, anywhere.”

When Lee got back from Jakarta, her roommate kept telling her to go back to school.

“I had somebody who made me believe that I could do it,” she says. “And once I started thinking like that, that’s when I took the first class. It’s like you can’t go backwards.”

Lee tried an eight-week online psychology class. Her mind was “just a huge bubble of confusion and emotion,” she says. Studying psychology helped narrow things down, made her think about “why this might happen, why that might happen.” And she got a good grade in the class.

Her first on-campus classes at PCC were perfect. She wasn’t anxious, which surprised her. This time she was going to school for herself, and that’s all she cared about.

Political science opened her mind to a wider world. Her favorite part was “the study group. It was fun, it’s more fun to have somebody to talk to about what we’re supposed to be learning.”

In her financial accounting class, she learned the ways a business has to be organized in order to be successful. Though the class didn’t cover non-profit corporations, Lee would like to start one someday.

“Something to do with the homeless,” she says. “Giving someone a chance to kind of clean up and find a job, the people who are serious about it.”

But Lee is not yet sure what major she wants to pursue. As she goes through school, it changes. She’s only taken a few classes so far and feels it’s narrowing her path “to do what I need to do. Or want to be,” she says thoughtfully. “I kind of think everything’s going to fall into place.”

Finishing her first full semester with good grades made her realize, “I can do anything!”

Originally published October 1, 2009

1: Single parent makes college a priority
3: Self Taught ‘techie’ re-engineers himself
4: Life ‘controlled chaos’ for military student
5: Retiree takes classes just for pleasure
6: Renaissance woman enjoys life-long learning
7: Journalist switching careers to teaching

Going back: moving forward 3: Self Taught 'techie' re-engineers himself

Going back: moving forward 3: Self Taught ‘techie’ re-engineers himself

Editor’s note: The Aztec Press presents its award-winning series from Fall 2009. This series, “Going back: moving forward,” tells the stories of nontraditional students who have returned to school—some after a few years, others after many. “Going back: moving forward” won first place for Feature Writing in the Society of Professional Journalists regional 2-year/community college category. It reached the top three nationally, to become a nationalist finalist.

Story by Liza Porter
Photo courtesy of Barney Hilton Murray

Barney Hilton Murray is a man of many talents. He is a photographer, videographer and writer, and a self-described, self-taught “techie.” He is also a furniture maker. Most importantly to him, he is a family man.

Murray has an open, inquisitive face that reflects his curious mind and his compassion for others.
He’s a dignified middle-aged man who looks like he works in the Silicon Valley, which in fact he did at one time.

He enrolled in classes at Pima Community College last spring after working for IBM in California as a Web administrator and designer for more than 20 years. He also has been a software engineering and test engineering consultant.

When the economy tanked, he was laid off from two jobs in 18 months.

What’s the main reason he went back to school? “I took a look at what my career has been and how things have changed,” he says.

Murray has become quite accomplished at photography and graphic arts, but has no proof of it. There are certain educational requirements he needs to become employed again.

“It was obvious that I’d have to reengineer myself for the future,” Murray says. “The bottom line is if I have to work for somebody else, there are certain minimum credentials that I feel I would have to have.”

He took journalism and digital art classes because he wants to become “a photographer that writes.”

“I’m in a constant learning mode,” Murray says. A lot of his education takes place in the leisure of his living room, through reading dozens of magazines—on photography, video and business.

Besides traditional classes, Murray has also taken on-line computer software classes through the University of Arizona. He likes both.

When asked if he felt out of place at PCC as a nontraditional student, Murray laughs and says, “I always have found myself for one reason or another in the minority group, going through college.”

There weren’t many blacks in technical programs when Murray first went to college 30 years ago. Now he’s often the oldest person in the class.

“I don’t think it’s a problem for me,” he says. He enjoys the younger students and “the fact that they are so willing to openly challenge the norm.”

He likes the dialogue that happens in class, depending on how students present their opinions and whether they show respect for others.

“Some of them can’t articulate themselves in a diplomatic manner, let me put it that way,” he says with a chuckle.

Murray’s greatest influence is the silent power of his father.

“He was one of those men that showed you priorities but never told you,” he says.

Through this silent presence, his father taught Murray and his siblings that family comes first. Murray has two daughters and four grandchildren.

The last several years have been hard on Murray and his family. In addition to the job layoffs, his wife was treated for a rare form of cancer.

“Through the grace of God, I kept my sanity,” Murray says. “We were able to stay afloat.” His wife is now cancer free.

He thinks he will move away from a job in corporate America. “I’d like to be able to take everything I’ve learned, from the journalism to my photography skills, graphics, whatever I’m learning, to better the lives of people,” he says.

Murray currently writes articles for a San Diego magazine called Chocolate Voice, Good News Tucson and examiner.com.

When asked what he does in his “spare” time, Murray says, “I’m so right now in a transformation space, I don’t feel like I’m entitled to … reward myself yet.”

He emphasizes the word yet.

Originally published October 15, 2009
1: Single parent makes college a priority
2: Work at Orphanage Provides Inspiration
4: Life ‘controlled chaos’ for military student
5: Retiree takes classes just for pleasure
6: Renaissance woman enjoys life-long learning
7: Journalist switching careers to teaching

Going back: moving forward 4: Life 'controlled chaos' for military student

Going back: moving forward 4: Life ‘controlled chaos’ for military student

Editor’s note: The Aztec Press presents its award-winning series from Fall 2009. This series, “Going back: moving forward,” tells the stories of nontraditional students who have returned to school—some after a few years, others after many. “Going back: moving forward” won first place for Feature Writing in the Society of Professional Journalists regional 2-year/community college category. It reached the top three nationally, to become a nationalist finalist.

Story by Liza Porter
Photo courtesy of Amirault family

Claire Amirault is about as busy as one woman can be. She is in the Air Force, stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. She is married with two children and is going back to college. Her sense of humor helps keep her sane during the pressures of her life.

“My husband, he describes me as controlled chaos,” Amirault says, laughing. She usually doesn’t show a lot of emotion. But when it hits, “it’s just whew, he knows my head, it’s completely chaotic, but it’s controlled chaos.”

Amirault is 28 years old and has long blonde hair. She exudes a certain self-acceptance. She has traveled the world. She and her husband were both stationed in Japan when they met. They got married there and had their children there.

“I lived in northern Japan,” Amirault says, “so it wasn’t like Tokyo, where everybody is rude.”

She lived in a farming area and Japanese people would approach them because they wanted to learn English. “It was really nice.”

Amirault took her first Pima class this past summer—an online writing class. It had been 10 years since she had taken anything except military courses.

She’s used to working hard, but at first was unsure about the class. As she watched her progress in the points column of the Web site, she thought: “Maybe I’m not doing as bad as I think I am.”

To earn her associate degree, Amirault plans to take all of her classes online. “It’s because I have a crazy work schedule. It’s easier to do it online.” She had to switch from days to nights recently, and her position doesn’t allow her to take time off to go to classes.

At Davis-Monthan, Amirault works in a command post. This translates in civilian terms to a 9-11 operation. Her 12-hour shifts are stressful and she does not see her children as often as she likes.

Amirault’s husband deployed to Afghanistan in August, and will be there at least six months. “It’s good money when one of us goes but it’s better if he goes, because I don’t want to leave my kids,” she said. Her father-in-law has moved in to help take care of the children while her husband is gone.

She defines herself as mother and wife. “Being a mother is the first thing in my life that felt like it fit. That I was good at.”

Amirault has thought about leaving the Air Force to be with her children, but will probably stay in for nine more years to reach retirement. Getting a degree will help her have something lined up so she can leave the military if she wants to.

She tried going to community college when she was 18. “I just wasn’t responsible enough to go to the classes,” she says, laughing. Like many young people, she joined the military “to grow up.”

Amirault and her husband would like to eventually move to Maine. They want to buy five acres and build their dream house. “There’s also talk about owning a restaurant/bar,” she says, “but the goal is to get ourselves to Maine and build a house.”

About school, she says “I don’t know what I want to do. This year, I want to be a social worker, but who knows? Last year I wanted to be a lawyer.” She laughs.

The difference between going to college when she was 18 and now is that she’s willing to do the work. “I understand that it only benefits me,” she says. “I didn’t understand that before.”

She’s more willing to learn, Amirault says, because “when I was 18, I knew everything, and now I know that I don’t.” She laughs one more time.

Originally published October 29, 2009

1: Single parent makes college a priority
2: Work at Orphanage Provides Inspiration
3: Self Taught ‘techie’ re-engineers himself
5: Retiree takes classes just for pleasure
6: Renaissance woman enjoys life-long learning
7: Journalist switching careers to teaching

Going back: moving forward 5: Retiree takes classes just for pleasure

Going back: moving forward 5: Retiree takes classes just for pleasure

Editor’s note: The Aztec Press presents its award-winning series from Fall 2009. This series, “Going back: moving forward,” tells the stories of nontraditional students who have returned to school—some after a few years, others after many. “Going back: moving forward” won first place for Feature Writing in the Society of Professional Journalists regional 2-year/community college category. It reached the top three nationally, to become a nationalist finalist.

Story by Liza Porter
Photo by Jessica Canchola

“We teach what we most need to learn” is a well-worn New Age cliché. But clichés become clichés because they’re true, right?

Sally Curd knows that learning never stops. Teaching and learning have walked hand-in-hand during her life.

Curd taught high school English in Tucson for more than two decades. About 20 years ago, she began taking Pima Community College classes for her personal satisfaction.

She started with non-credit classes.

“I love their community classes,” Curd says. “I started taking those, there were some little short things on writing.”

Curd has studied humanities, creative writing and history at PCC. The history class at Downtown Campus was “a dynamite class. It covered both World War I and World War II,” she says.

“The sciences I haven’t tried,” Curd adds. “I definitely want to do that. I want to take a plant sciences class.”

Curd also attends PCC weekend writing workshops and the Pima Writers Conference that takes place at West Campus each May.

She attended a poetry weekend workshop at PCC several weeks ago conducted by Steve Kowit, a California poet and teacher.

“It was very substantive,” she said. “We did a lot of writing, we did critiques of each other’s pieces.”

This semester she is enrolled in a literature class.

“I really think that at Pima the non-traditional students are as much the rule as the exception,” Curd says. “Most of the classes, there have been a very good number of … shall we say, students over 30?” She laughs.

“The lit class I’m taking right now would be a very definite exception. I am definitely the oldest one in there. There are two other people who are mature adults, but not near as old as I am.”

In the literature class, the career teacher interacts with kids close to the ages of her former students.

“They probably think I’m a blabbermouth,” she says. “I’d like to get more from their point of view about things. Quite often, especially with literature, I think the age that you’re coming from really has a lot to do with your interpretation, your perception. I’m very interested in what the younger ones think.”

Curd has thought about taking on-line classes, but enjoys being in a classroom. “I like the interactions. That’s one of my reasons for taking classes.”

She bases her class choices on interest and when the class meets. She’d rather attend classes during the day.

However, she’s heard good things about a nonfiction writing class that meets once a week in the evening for almost three hours. She might enroll next spring.

“It’s so long,” Curd says. “You’ve really got to be motivated. On the other hand, it forces me to write.”

Curd says she loves having Pima so accessible, and appreciates having access to the PCC library.

“It’s been my experience that the quality of teaching at Pima is outstanding and I’ve heard from some people that it’s even better than the U of A,” she said.

Though she already has a master’s degree in education, Curd says if she could afford it, she would go to UA for a master’s in rhetoric.

“A study of the way language is used,” she says. “Word choice, sentence length, introductions, endings… formal or casual.”

That sounds suspiciously similar to high school English class.

1: Single parent makes college a priority
2: Work at Orphanage Provides Inspiration
3: Self Taught ‘techie’ re-engineers himself
4: Life ‘controlled chaos’ for military student
6: Renaissance woman enjoys life-long learning
7: Journalist switching careers to teaching

Going back: moving forward 6: Renaissance woman enjoys life-long learning

Going back: moving forward 6: Renaissance woman enjoys life-long learning

Editor’s note: The Aztec Press presents its award-winning series from Fall 2009. This series, “Going back: moving forward,” tells the stories of nontraditional students who have returned to school—some after a few years, others after many. “Going back: moving forward” won first place for Feature Writing in the Society of Professional Journalists regional 2-year/community college category. It reached the top three nationally, to become a nationalist finalist.

Story by Liza Porter
Photo by Daniel Gaona

Lynda Gibson’s wanderlust keeps her trying new things. It all comes down to books and learning.

And writing, history, art, scholarship, travel.

Gibson is a renaissance woman.

Raised in a military family, Gibson lived in Europe and all over the United States, including Hawaii.

As an adult, she’s lived in New Mexico, Texas and California. She eventually settled in Arizona, where she graduated from high school. She has been to England, and on cruises to both Alaska and Greece.

“I love history,” Gibson says. She got to see some of the Greek islands and ancient ruins. “Going to Knossos on Crete was just wonderful.”

Gibson retired in 2003 from Tucson Unified School District, where she taught high school English and was an elementary school librarian. She then taught part-time at Pima for several years. She’s been taking classes at Pima for many years.

This semester she’s enrolled in an art history class at Downtown Campus.

“I love the class,” Gibson says. “And sitting next to me in class is a girl who remembered me as her librarian when she was in elementary school.” Gibson gets a kick out of that.

“I frequently run into former students. It’s nice because now they all like me,” she jokes.

She likes to think she instilled a love of learning in some of her students.

“I’ve also taken a curating class, working out of the Bernal Gallery,” she says. The Bernal is Pima’s art gallery in the Center for the Arts complex on West Campus.

“I’ve taken digital photography. I took the beginning design class, Art 100 or whatever it is. I learned so much in that. I like experimenting with origami, paper folding,” she adds. “And fiber art. Mixed media, that sort of thing.”

It makes sense that someone with Gibson’s education would have such eclectic interests. She earned her bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Arizona State University, and her master’s in library science at University of Arizona.

She has also done graduate work in several fields, including folklore. She has an education specialist degree in educational administration.

Gibson has taken many of the writing classes offered at Pima, including short story, poetry and creative nonfiction. She has written a novel.

“It’s one of the most deserving of staying in the bottom drawer novels that you’re ever going to see.” Gibson laughs.

She’s writing short stories now, and calls it great discipline since a good short story must be concise.

What has she not done that she still would like to do?

“I want to become the Great American Writer and I haven’t done that yet. I’d like to run a marathon.” She laughs again. Becoming an award-winning French chef is also on the list.

“One thing I am going to do is get back to my violin. I still have it. I just haven’t played in years. I realized that I miss it.”

Gibson belongs to a book club that reads mostly novels. It saddens her that most of the independent book stores in Tucson have closed—the Bookmark, the Haunted Bookshop. “I loved the Bookmark.”

She doesn’t think she’ll jump onto the electronic Kindle bandwagon—she likes to hold an actual book in her hands—and she doesn’t think books will go away any time soon.

She still frequents Antigone Books and the Bookstop on Fourth Avenue, as well as the two big chain stores, Barnes & Noble and Borders.

“They’re full of people,” Gibson says. “That’s a good sign.”

She doesn’t approve of people pirating books from the Internet. She argued with a friend once, who thought it was perfectly OK.

“Well, I’m sorry,” Gibson says, sarcastically, “but authors need to make money, that’s why they sell these things.”

She does download books from the Gutenberg Project Web site (www.gutenberg.org), a cooperative project that scans books with expired copyrights onto the Web.

“They add them constantly,” Gibson says. The only problem she’s found is that if the book is a translation, you can’t be sure which one you’re getting.

Some translations are hard to read because English has changed so much over the centuries. The newer translations won’t be on Gutenberg yet because they’re still copyrighted.

Gibson’s favorite writer is Terry Pratchett, a British author of the “Discworld” science fiction series.

“This is fantasy, where magic works,” Gibson says. “This disk sits on top of, is held up by, four enormous elephants who stand on the shell of a turtle. A great turtle that swims through space.”

The series is comedy satire, Gibson says. “It’s almost all satire. And he is a very funny writer.”

Plus, it feeds her wanderlust.

What better place to travel than in space?

Originally published December 1, 2009

1: Single parent makes college a priority
2: Work at Orphanage Provides Inspiration
3: Self Taught ‘techie’ re-engineers himself
4: Life ‘controlled chaos’ for military student
5: Retiree takes classes just for pleasure
7: Journalist switching careers to teaching

Going back: moving forward 7: Journalist switching careers to teaching

Going back: moving forward 7: Journalist switching careers to teaching

Editor’s note: The Aztec Press presents its award-winning series from Fall 2009. This series, “Going back: moving forward,” tells the stories of nontraditional students who have returned to school—some after a few years, others after many. “Going back: moving forward” won first place for Feature Writing in the regional Society of Professional Journalists 2-year/community college category. It reached the top three at the national level, making it a national finalist.

Story and photo by Liza Porter

Breyman Schmelzle was a sportswriter for the Tucson Citizen for 22 years until the newspaper went out of business earlier this year.

He hadn’t made any preparation for a second career. But near the end of his Citizen days, another reporter stopped by Schmelzle’s desk and said, “You ought to teach, you’d be really good at it!”

It clicked.

At 63, Schmelzle decided to become a high school teacher. He’s taking classes at Pima Community College, and working to become recertified by taking Arizona Educator Proficiency Assessments.

He taught language arts in Illinois his first year out of college, but was more interested in becoming a sportswriter. He wrote for a couple of papers in the Midwest before coming to Tucson.

Schmelzle’s journalism career was long and fruitful. He started at the Citizen as a copy editor and went on to cover just about everything in the sports world: basketball, football, softball, tennis, wrestling and gymnastics. His favorite assignment was covering Olympic athletes at the University of Arizona.

“It was very rewarding, being able to associate with that type,” he says. “You learn from people.”

After Gannett, the newspaper chain that owned the Citizen, announced it planned to sell the newspaper, staffers waited months to learn their fate. “Morale was horrible. It was a tragedy,” Schmelzle says.

“Newspapers are just so much fun to work at. And of course we were convinced we were much better than the morning paper,” he adds, laughing. “Nobody wants to read an afternoon paper because by the time they get it, it’s not news anymore.”

Journalism is definitely taking a turn, Schmelzle says. But he doesn’t think journalism itself will fail.

“Maybe newspapers,” he says. “The paper part, I think, may be like a black and white TV some day.”

Schmelzle is grateful that Pima is here. Deciding to take classes at Pima was part of the process of deciding to become a teacher. “Without Pima, this thing wouldn’t be going, I don’t think.”

He started last summer with Tom Speer’s modern literature class. “It was great. I had never, ever been so into school.”

Schmelzle quit high school in the spring of his senior year because he knew he wouldn’t graduate. But he went back the next fall and completed his graduation requirements, then went on to graduate from the University of Notre Dame.

The way Speer conducted the literature course was just fabulous, Schmelzle says.

“I just felt that energy.” It transformed him. “Wow! This is it!” he thought.

Schmelzle had never considered himself an academic, but he got so involved in the class he became completely convinced that he wanted to teach.

“And things have just happened, one thing after another,” Schmelzle says.

This semester he’s enrolled in a humanities course and an American authors course. “I’ve always been a reader and always interested in characterization,” Schmelzle says.

When he was a journalist, he loved doing personality sketches. He could talk with someone for 20 minutes and grasp who they were and what they were about.

“I was pretty competent at that. The game and the competition were fine, but it’s the people that I was interested in.”

That interest in people will certainly help Schmelzle in the classroom.

He’s not nervous at all about relating to high school students, he says “because I’ve actually been relating to kids, to late teens, all my life.”

And he is excited about being a teacher this time around. His words almost trip over themselves. “I think understanding history, understanding literature … and math trains the brain … and logic …”

Schmelzle wants to be one person in kids’ lives who will help them find themselves.
The purpose of education is about becoming, he says.

“For the student to grow, you know, to find themselves somehow. Through all of the problems and the peer pressure and the culture.”

He tries not to think about the future too much, or to dwell on the past. When the Citizen folded, Schmelzle decided he wasn’t going to panic.

“I think it’s a blessing. I’m not cynical about it,” he says.

He told himself, “It’s not going to cause depression. I don’t care, it’s just not going to do it.”

Schmelzle thinks everything has a purpose.

“I’m a late bloomer at the age of 63, that’s pretty late,” he says, laughing. “Maybe I needed that much preparation.”

Schmelzle knows it could take a while to find a teaching position. He had one offer, but it fell through because of budget problems.

“Right now, I can take—so to speak—failure,” he says. “If you consider what failure is—not reaching the goal—I can take it.”

But he won’t be denied.

“A person has to do that,” Schmelzle says. “No matter what realm they’re doing it in, they have to keep going. They have to say ‘I will not fail.’”

Originally published December 10, 2009

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