Project GRAD executive director to speak at Pellissippi State’s Commencement

posted in: Academics, Commencement, Students, TBR | 0

Vrondelia-ChandlerProject GRAD Knoxville’s executive director, Vrondelia “Ronni” Chandler, is the keynote speaker at Pellissippi State Community College’s Spring Commencement ceremony Saturday, May 9.

Commencement begins at 4 p.m. and takes place at the University of Tennessee’s Thompson-Boling Arena. More than 500 students will walk across the stage.

Chandler is both a former employee and an alumna of Pellissippi State. She began working at the college in 1978, just four years after the institution opened its doors at the Division Street Campus. She earned a General Technology/Interdisciplinary degree from Pellissippi State in 1994, then went on to earn a bachelor’s from Tusculum College.

Chandler has worked at Project GRAD Knoxville since 2001, serving first as a program director and now as executive director. Project GRAD Knoxville provides support for students and families, many of them from low-income areas, in 14 Heart of Knoxville schools and 80 higher education institutions. The group’s mission is to positively impact generational change through education.

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call (865) 694-6400.

Single mother returns to school at Pellissippi State to study horticulture

April-Ellis

On days with good weather, April Ellis rides her bicycle to school.

Ellis, a Pellissippi State Community College student, doesn’t consider her transportation options to be a limitation, though. She simply rides her bicycle or takes the bus to the Magnolia Avenue Campus, where she’s pursuing an associate’s degree with the plan of going on for a bachelor’s in public horticulture.

A single mother who didn’t complete high school, Ellis enrolled full time at Pellissippi State last spring. Like many nontraditional students, the 29-year-old has to balance returning to school with a multitude of other responsibilities: working a full-time job, fulfilling a work-study commitment and raising a child.

“It’s been so crazy, but you make it work,” she said.

Ellis is taking courses to earn a general studies degree, and once she graduates, she plans to transfer to the University of Tennessee.

“Public horticulture has a wide variety of job opportunities, anything that integrates gardens and people,” she said. “Specifically, I’m interested in horticulture therapy.

“People go into gardens and feel better, and horticulture therapy brings that recreational therapy aspect into gardening. You can take a person who needs to work on an injury and say, ‘Let’s work with your weak hand grip by pruning these roses.’”

Ellis was a stay-at-home mother and housewife during her son’s growing-up years. When she began going through a divorce, she realized she needed and wanted a fulfilling job that could provide for her family.

“At that time, I didn’t even have a GED or any kind of formal education,” she said, “and I wanted to be someone that my son could look up to.”

She first attended classes at the Knox County Career Center, where she earned her GED, and two months later, in spring 2014, she began classes at Pellissippi State.

“Here, I’m not the odd person out,” Ellis said. “A lot of students here are nontraditional, so I’m not alone in those struggles about being in college and having a job and a family.

“And professors understand that, too, that you have homework and a family. Having that kind of nurturing, supportive environment has been crucial. People here have gone above and beyond to make sure I get more than just good grades.”

Pellissippi State supports its population of nontraditional students with a host of services, among them, alternative scheduling; cohort programs, in which students start and finish their coursework as a group; tutoring; workforce development; and career placement. The college even offers nontraditional students credit for previous military and work experience through what’s called “prior learning assessment.”

For more information about Pellissippi State and its programs and resources, visit www.pstcc.edu or call (865) 694-6400.

Pellissippi State partners with Town of Farragut at outdoor classroom

posted in: Community, Partnerships, Students | 0

Rachael ReevesPellissippi State Community College students in a geology course are working at the town of Farragut’s outdoor classroom to study soil porosity and the hydrologic cycle and to build a rain garden.

“The projects at the outdoor classroom are led by the groups that come here,” said Jason Scott, Farragut’s stormwater engineer. “Pellissippi State has been great to work with. They’re coming in to test the soil, come up with concept plans and follow the whole process of building a garden.”

Sarah Drummond, a Geology adjunct faculty member at Pellissippi State, had her students at the garden in early February to take soil samples and study how quickly water drains from East Tennessee’s clay soil. This month, Drummond hopes her class—in addition to others from Pellissippi State—will be able to plant a rain garden at the site.

“I’ve loved the hands-on experience that the outdoor classroom has given us,” said Rachael Reeves, a student in Drummond’s class. “Sometimes it’s hard to relate what you learn in the classroom to real life, and this class has definitely broken that mold.”

Kathleen Affholter, an associate professor in Geology, travels with her class from Pellissippi State’s Blount County Campus to Farragut’s outdoor classroom.

“We’re taking soil samples and testing porosity and permeability, and those tests are more meaningful when the students have collected the soil themselves,” Affholter said. “It’s a great learning experience to have hands-on knowledge of what can be an abstract experiment.”

Affholter is using technology, including a storytelling app called Shadow Puppet, to help her students document their experiments. Landon Lowe and Catherine Metler created a short video in February to show their experiment.

Pellissippi State’s partnership with the town of Farragut began in 2014 with Caroline Erickson, also a Geology adjunct faculty member.

“I was looking for a project that would tie in what students were studying in the classroom with hands-on learning in a setting that would benefit both the students and the community,” Erickson said. “Students will carry out various projects in the demonstration space: they will study the soil’s porosity and permeability and finally install the plants at the outdoor classroom.”

Farragut’s outdoor classroom is located near Farragut High School off Campbell Station Road. With the help of grant funds, the outdoor classroom showcases native plantings, rainwater collection systems and water quality.

For more information about Pellissippi State and its many programs, visit www.pstcc.edu or call (865) 694-6400.

Pellissippi State ‘2+2’ alumnus named ‘Teacher of the Year’

Charlie ArpCharles Arp, a Pellissippi State Community College alumnus, has been named “Teacher of the Year” for Sweetwater City Schools in Monroe County. He teaches fifth grade at Brown Intermediate School.

Arp graduated through a teacher education partnership between Pellissippi State and Tennessee Technological University in 2012. Graduates from what is called the “2+2” program earn an Associate of Science in Teaching degree from Pellissippi State, then a Bachelor of Science degree in Multidisciplinary Studies and K-6 Teacher Licensure from Tennessee Tech.

Students in 2+2 attend the first two years as Pellissippi State students and the last two years as Tennessee Tech students—but they take all of their classes at Pellissippi State’s Hardin Valley Campus. A.S.T. is a cohort program, meaning the students go through the entire sequence together.

“Charlie was one of those students that you don’t forget,” said Barbara Jenkins, program coordinator of the A.S.T. program. “He knew what he wanted to do—to teach and make a difference with children in the elementary classroom—and he pursued his goal without hesitation.”

Arp says he was surprised and pleased to receive the Teacher of the Year recognition after teaching only three years. The honor is awarded through Little Tennessee Valley Educational Cooperative.

In April, he also earned Oak Ridge Associated Universities’ 2015 Extreme Classroom Makeover. The award comes with a $25,000 grand prize that funds new technology in the classroom.

Arp credits his success to Pellissippi State and Tennessee Tech and the partnership 2+2 program.

“Pellissippi State prepared me for nearly every aspect of teaching,” he said. “My students have had some of the highest possible science TCAP [Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program] scores in the state. I would say 75 percent of my teaching toolkit is from things I learned at Pellissippi State.

“The 2+2 program even helped prepare me for the interview for this job [at Brown Intermediate]. The only mistake I made was that I didn’t start the 2+2 program straight out of high school.”

Arp employs a number of distinctive techniques to teach his students, including using the Minecraft video game as a way of teaching mathematics and keeping children moving during math lessons by making use of a class-sized coordinate plane. When teaching reading and English lessons, Arp uses movie trailers based on novels to get his students interested in literature.

For more information about the A.S.T., 2+2 and other programs offered by or in partnership with Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call (865) 694-6400.

1 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 30