Category Archives: Blount County

Pellissippi State instructor helps students overcome fear of public speaking

When it came time to present her speech, Meaghan Marsh sang.

The Pellissippi State Community College student belted out the first line of “O Canada,” the national anthem of Canada, and that was enough to get her started.

In Larry Dearing’s public speaking class on Wednesday night at the college’s Blount County Campus, the speeches ran the gamut: travel, addiction, work, disease, health-care precautions, the dangers of texting while driving. Like Marsh’s humorous musical opener, the other students’ props and approaches were unique and creative.

Dearing, who has taught public speaking at Pellissippi State for more than a decade, sat in the back of the room listening, making notes. During the day, the adjunct faculty member works full time off campus, and four nights a week, he teaches public speaking for Pellissippi State.

That schedule can make for a long day, but when Dearing sets foot in the classroom, he gets a second wind.

“When I get in class, I’m energized. All that tiredness goes away,” he said. “The day job is work—the night job is not.”

One of the reasons Dearing likes teaching in the evening, he says, is the mix of students: Students returning to college to finish a degree after several years’ hiatus from the classroom. Younger students and adults who juggle jobs, family and school. Career changers who work at jobs in which they see little hope for advancement or growth.

Returning to school after a hiatus can be a struggle. And public speaking can be especially daunting. That was something Dearing and the class addressed early in the semester.

“When we first started, we each talked about how this class was going to be for us, or how hard it was going to be for each one of us, because a lot of people have a problem with public speaking,” said Marsh, a Pellissippi State freshman and 2010 Alcoa High School graduate who wants to teach art.

Dearing has had students step in front of the class for the first speech and grow so nervous that they shake and turn red. Sometimes they apologize for the way they sound. He remembers his first public speaking class at the University of Tennessee, where he earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in theater and speech.

“I see me up there the first time and recall how hard it was for me,” he said.

Dearing started teaching public speaking initially in 1978, in the evenings at the Division Street Campus. He taught part time for three years and then embarked on a career in business. Twenty years later, he was still thinking about the classroom.

Ten years ago, Dearing started again in the place he originally taught: Division Street. He returned as an adjunct faculty member, and it all seemed as familiar as his first teaching experience at Pellissippi State.

“You know, Thomas Wolfe was wrong,” said Dearing. “You can go home again.”

With the semester nearly halfway over, his students seemed to have overcome many of their initial fears and appeared relaxed on Wednesday night. Marsh opened with the song and made the transition into her speech about work. She is not shy, but beginning with the song helped her get over the first hurdle.

“Yes, it was kind of like breaking the ice,” said Marsh. “Also, [Mr. Dearing] tells us that we need to have an introduction that draws people in, so I always try to start with something that makes people pay attention.”

Pellissippi State’s Blount County Campus hosts Feb. 16 open house

Whether you’re a prospective student or would just like to see Blount County’s newest college facility, you are invited to an open house at the Blount County Campus of Pellissippi State Community College Feb. 16, 4-6 p.m. The campus is located at 2731 W. Lamar Alexander Pkwy.

Opened in August 2010, the two-story, 70,485-square-foot building is home to the Nursing program (along with the Magnolia Avenue Campus in Knoxville), the state-of-the-art Manufacturing Tech Lab, an amphitheatre, and science and computer labs and classrooms, including one for distance education.

“It’s really an opportunity for prospective students and the community—particularly anyone who didn’t get to attend the grand opening—to take the time to see what Pellissippi State’s Blount County Campus offers,” said Holly Burkett, assistant dean of the site.

Prospective students attending the event will get all the information necessary for a smooth entrance into college life, including how-tos on admission and financial aid and info on services for students with disabilities, dual enrollment and degrees offered. The community also can learn about educational and training opportunities offered through the college’s non-credit division, Business and Community Services.

To find out more, contact Holly Burkett at (865) 981-5300 or hlburkett@pstcc.edu. To request accommodations for a disability, contact the executive director of Human Resources and Affirmative Action at (865) 694-6607 or humanresources@pstcc.edu.

Pellissippi State Foundation: Blount County Campus home to extensive artwork thanks to local collector

Ed Harmon
Ed Harmon

Step into the two-story lobby of the new Pellissippi State Community College Blount County Campus facility and one of the first things you will notice is an oversize scenic painting by local artist Ron Williams. Stroll throughout the rest of the building and you’ll see paintings by Sevier County native Robert Tino and Maryville resident Heath Claiborne.

The bridge between the artists and Pellissippi State is Ed Harmon, who has donated 20 paintings and prints in all to the Pellissippi State Foundation on behalf of the community college.

Harmon, a native of Blount County and a retired Sevier County business owner, has been collecting art for decades. The Maryville resident has traveled around the world three times. With each journey, he returns home with more collectibles—a porcelain figurine from Italy, jade elephants from Africa, two lifelike wooden giraffes he had shipped to his house after a trip to Kenya, in East Africa.

But it’s the local art, especially the paintings of the Appalachian region and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, that are closest to Harmon’s heart. He knows Williams, Tino and Claiborne personally and admires their unique interpretations of the landscapes with which he is so familiar: Cades Cove, a Great Smoky Mountain sunset, the Little Pigeon River.

Harmon has one of Robert Tino’s first works, an oil painting of horses. The piece is displayed in the foyer of Harmon’s home.

“I served as the Key Club advisor at Sevier County High School,” said Harmon, “and met Robert Tino when he was an art student just starting out. It was obvious even then that he was extremely talented.”

Harmon recalls his own enjoyment of art in an educational setting, and he wanted to share that enjoyment with the Pellissippi State community.

“My first year out of college,” he said, “I taught in a school that hosted art shows and exhibited donated pieces. There was always art in the hallways. That added so much to the building and to the experience of everyone who attended school there or just visited.

“I wanted those who come to the Pellissippi State Blount County Campus to be able to enjoy that same experience. Blount County is so fortunate to have Pellissippi State.”

And the College, in turn, is fortunate to have supporters like Ed Harmon.

“Part of our mission is to provide opportunities for life, civic and cultural enrichment,” said Peggy Wilson. Wilson is vice president of College Advancement and executive director of the Pellissippi State Foundation. Donations to the college are coordinated by the Foundation.

“Thanks to Ed Harmon, those who spend time at the Blount County Campus now have the opportunity to be enriched by a meaningful art collection. We all appreciate his willingness to share such beautiful art with the entire community, and the Foundation would certainly encourage others to contact us regarding such gifts.”

To discuss the possibility of making a donation, call the Foundation at (865) 694-6528 or email foundation@pstcc.edu.