Teacher Spotlight: WSCC’s Connie Schwass.

May 18, 2021

Teacher Spotlight: WSCC’s Connie Schwass.

By Kate Krieger-Watkins, staff writer.

Teacher Spotlight is a presentation of Shelby State Bank, with offices in Ludington, Pentwater, Shelby, Hart, Hesperia, Manistee, Montague, Whitehall, North Muskegon, and Fruitport. 

VICTORY TWP – Following the advice that her mother gave her, West Shore Community College professor, Connie Schwass decided to go into education, even though she wasn’t too sure about it at the time.

“I went into education because my mama said so,” Schwass said. “She was a teacher and even though I resisted initially it did not take me too long to understand the wisdom of her words. I am curious, inquisitive and love seeing and learning new things. I believe when I’m teaching, I’m just continuing my own innate desire to learn.”

Schwass graduated from Reed City High School in 1979 and then went on to college to seek an education degree. She attended West Shore Community College and then transferred her credits earned there for every post-secondary degree she received after. She then went to Ferris State University, receiving a bachelor’s degree in business education and computer science in 1988. She later received her master’s in business administration from Grand Valley State University in 1993 and then her PhD. in education leadership in 2010 from Western Michigan University.

Schwass has been teaching secondary or post-secondary education for 32 years, receiving her first teaching job before she was even done with her bachelor’s.

“My teaching career began in 1988 before I even completed my student teaching at Mason County Central High School,” she said. “The first class I taught was ‘Making Your Computer Work For You’ through the Mason County Adult Education program. At this same time, I started substitute teaching at MCC and then by the summer of 1989, I was invited to teach the business composition course at West Shore Community College. For a brief span of time, I was teaching all three of these very diverse populations of students which challenged me to put to work my educational background on teaching to different learning styles. By the fall of 1989, WSCC offered me additional courses in the business division ranging from accounting to business math. I continued to teach adult education for another two years, but I had found that teaching at WSCC was where I wanted to be. I have been there ever since. 

“Throughout the years I have been involved with the business side of my husband’s generational farm. I have also served as on-campus director for Davenport University and currently I am a part-time advisor for the Michigan State University AgScience partnership program with WSCC.”

Having a flexible schedule at WSCC, Schwass said she likes being able to have a career, but also the ability to spend ample time with her family as well.

“It’s a great career path but with flexibility to put family first,” she said. “Many times, students become your family. Those relationships are treasured for a lifetime.”

She added that if there was one thing she could change about the educational field that she would love to see all teachers receiving the respect and gratitude they deserve.

After being in a classroom setting for over 30 years, the onset of a global pandemic changed Schwass’ life forever and how she would view the education field as a whole.

“The COVID shutdown forced my hand,” she said. Moving to fully online teaching challenged everything I had been doing for decades as an educator. It was humbling to stumble in front of my students, fortunately they had the grace to help me get back up and we simply learned together. I became less of a leader and much more of a teammate in the process. It was hard work for everyone, a good reminder about fortitude and adaptability.”

Looking back at her mother’s advice, Schwass said she is very happy she listened and went into education because she has had so many opportunities to work with other educators and so many students. She stated that getting to know her students has been a wonderful aspect of her career and it also plays a key role to anyone seeking an education degree.

“Teaching requires compassion and patience,” she said. “My favorite quote is from Steven Covey and his principles for highly effective people, ‘Seek first to understand, then to be understood.’ The best teaching moments happen when you truly understand what level the student is at and then you find the path to meet them.”

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