Teacher Tuesday: WSCC’s Jessica Houser.

September 15, 2020

Jessica Houser

Teacher Tuesday: WSCC’s Jessica Houser.

Teacher Tuesday is a presentation of Shelby State Bank, www.shelbystatebank.com.

By Kate Krieger, MCP Staff Writer.

VICTORY TWP – West Shore Community College professor Jessica Houser never planned on becoming a teacher, she had her mind set on seeking her doctoral degree in counseling.

“I fell into teaching,” she said. “Shortly after I finished my master’s degree, a former psychology professor and mentor of mine, Dr. Tony Salinski, suggested I try my hand at teaching. He recommended me for an adjunct instructor position at Eastern Gateway Community College, where I had once been his student. After seeing me teach, Tony was confident that I had found my niche. I soon realized he was right. I eventually abandoned my original plan to pursue a doctoral degree in counseling and chose to remain in higher education. Now, I live in beautiful western Michigan and I’m a tenured professor at a fantastic college.”

A native of Ohio, Houser was lucky enough to be receive a grant for free education — which she explained is very similar to the Mason County Promise Scholarship — that offers any high school graduate of Mason County two free years of college at WSCC or up to 60 credit hours.

“I graduated from Indian Creek High School in 2002,” Houser said. “I earned my associate of arts degree from Jefferson Community College, now Eastern Gateway Community College, in 2005. I attended community college on a grant that is similar to the Mason County Promise. The grant enabled me to obtain free tuition for four semesters of community college. I received my bachelor’s in psychology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2007. I graduated with my master’s degree in psychology from the University of West Georgia in 2011. West Georgia is one of the few psychology programs in the country with a strong emphasis in humanistic psychology.”

Houser said she has had a love for learning since she was a young child and she really enjoyed attending school. She said she carries that love for learning into her classes and really enjoys sharing new and exciting information with her students every semester.

“I love to learn,” she said. “How cool is it that my job involves talking to students about the things I learn? Every class is different and dynamic. I never know what one group of students vs. another group of students will bring to the class. Every semester I think, ‘what will I learn from them?’”

Along with her love for education and seeing her students learn new concepts, Houser said it also brings about certain aspects to education that she doesn’t always enjoy as much.

“I wish our education system placed a higher value on intrinsic motivation,” she said. “When I was a sophomore in college, one of my favorite professors accused me of only caring about ‘the grade.’ Yes, I had a 4.0 GPA and yes, my grades did matter to me, but I loved that professor’s class. In fact, I enjoyed several of my classes. In those classes, I was driven by both a desire to be successful and a desire to learn. I felt the need to prove the latter to the professor who falsely accused me of only caring about “the grade.” So, I intentionally flunked his next exam. I received a “B” in the class and my GPA dropped from a 4.0 to a 3.9. In retrospect, I admit, it was not the best way to prove a point.”

Now, going into her seventh year as a professor, Houser said she can now see why her former professor felt the way he did because there aren’t nearly as many students coming forward, stating that they are in school because they have a true love of learning.

“As an educator, I can now commiserate with my former professor,” she said. “It is not unusual to see students who only care about “the grade.” In fact, it’s a common occurrence. From a young age, learning is associated with an extrinsic reward likes gold stars, points, principals list, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I think students should be rewarded for hard work and a job well done. They earned it. But it seems to me that our society does not place a high enough value on the intrinsic joy of learning.”

In her fourth year at WSCC, Houser is teaching all of her courses online, but the move from the classroom to the computer wasn’t as hard for her as it was for others due to COVID-19. She said she actually enjoys teaching online, but always has concerns that going completely virtual can bring.

“I’ve been teaching online for several years now, so I was able to easily transition from a face-to-face modality to an online modality,” she said. “My biggest struggle was coming-up with a plan that would work best for all of my students. I worried if my students had reliable internet access. I knew that some of my face-to-face students had never taken an online course. Many of them were anxious about the pandemic and all of the possible consequences associated with the pandemic. In addition to changing course modalities, we needed to make sure students were OK.”

Teaching six classes online, Houser is busy meeting with students, grading assignments and making changes to her plans as she continues through this fall semester.

“Three of my classes were originally schedule online while the other three classes were scheduled to meet face-to-face. I moved those classes to a synchronous online format in which I meet with my students via Zoom.”

Houser is the only full-time, tenured psychology professor at WSCC. Even though she is the only full-timer, she still offers WSCC students six different course in the field of psychology, including one of her favorite topics.

“I teach psychology classes in including Intro to Psychology, Child Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Educational Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, and Social Psychology. If I had to choose a favorite it would be a toss-up between Intro to Psychology and Abnormal Psychology.”

Finding her niche and getting to share her love for psychology with others has really become Houser’s dream job and she is very excited to see what this semester and all the others will bring.

“My parents used to tease me and say I was going to be a ‘life-long’ student,” she said. “I am and it’s awesome.”

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