September 27, 2022

Teachers That Inspire

On my first day of Field Ecology, Professor Karen M. Klein came into the classroom using crutches with a huge smile on her face. She broke her ankle over the summer but it hasn’t broken her spirit. Our class went outside on our first field study in the East 40 to collect monarch caterpillars and she did not let her handicap get in the way.

Over the summer I broke my foot and I whined and complained and unfortunately, let it hold me back from doing the things I love, like spending time outdoors. Seeing Professor Klein’s enthusiasm and zest for life was truly inspiring and I find myself excited to go to class – even at 8 a.m.

This got me thinking … who inspires you?

So I asked a few people on campus and this was what I learned.

Justin Nieves, Liberal Arts Psychology major named Psychology Professor Gina Turner as a source of inspiration.

“She has a lot of insider knowledge and ideas for what path I could take next in the Psychology field. She offers a lot of advice on transfer options and careers,” he said.

Justin is interested in working for the FBI as a criminal psychologist because he “wants to know why people do bad things and make irrational decisions.” His parents don’t exactly approve of this potentially dangerous career choice but he “wants to make a difference by helping people” because he believes that “no one is too far gone to help.”

He hopes to “lift up and motivate others as a role model because everyone here at NCC has a purpose. Our journey is not over yet, it’s just getting started,” he said.

Michael Nieves, majoring in Construction Management, said History Professor James Reibman and English Professor Kelly Allen, both inspire him.

Michael Nieves with English Professor Kelly Allen. Photo by Jamie Ratchford

Michael said that he enjoys Professor Reibman’s teaching style and that it makes learning satisfying. He is taking his Classical History course and described him as being like “Indiana Jones’ father.”

“Reibman studied at Oxford and speaks several languages like Latin and Greek. It makes me want to learn more languages,” he said. Michael is bilingual. He can speak English and Spanish.

He said Professor Allen “ has encouraged me to try new things, to be more proactive and involved on campus. He is like a fatherly figure, always motivating.”

Professor Allen is the developer and coordinator of the East 40 Community Garden. He also designed a study abroad program called Sustainable Food Systems in Emerging Markets, where he takes students to Medellin, Colombia. Michael is a member of “Good Growers” and works the produce stand during the Wednesday Farmers Market. He also traveled with Professor Allen in the study abroad program.

“My time at NCC has motivated me and given me the confidence to travel and experience new things. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do but this gave me the opportunity to do it with the benefit of education and improving my writing skills,” Michael said.

Inspiration often has a ripple effect. When one person is motivated and encouraged, it begins to influence those around them. I asked Professor Allen who inspired him.

“My mother,” Professor Allen said. “She was one of the very few people who believed in me. She told me, “you’d be a good teacher” and that gave me a focus.”

“There were a few people in high school that cared about me. It wasn’t the fact that they were smart that struck me but that they knew my name. They knew me. I could tell they genuinely cared,” he said. “That was an important quality I sought in educators and what I try to be for my students.”

College can be an overwhelming and challenging place but you are not in this alone. NCC is a genuine community and there are people here that truly care.

Is there a professor, coach, counselor, advisor, or someone here at NCC that motivates you to be a better student? We want to know. Send your story to and tell us who inspires you!

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