NPC_dont_let_fear“I was very nervous about having to go into a class-room,” reflects Colleen Readel. “It wasn’t about the course work, but my fear of being the oldest student in class.”

Like many Northland Pioneer College students, Readel had delayed her education until her youngest son was a senior in high school. “I was interested in interior design, and had taken a few classes in the Valley. Then the economy crashed and we moved to rural Apache County, where there wasn’t a high demand for interior designers.”

Wanting to work, she used her office skills to land a position with NPC. But there was a hitch: like many jobs today, it required her to have a degree. “I figured it would be easiest to get my degree in something I was already doing: office management,” she said.

“On purpose I took every available online course that would apply to my degree so I didn’t have to go into a live classroom.” But then in the fall semester of 2013 she had to enroll in Technical Writing, a requirement for her degree, on the interactive video system with instructor Barry Richins.

“I was really scared; even though at work I had taken minutes for video meetings, to be in a room full of 20-somethings for class was different.” Readel laughs as she recalls, “The first day of class, we were all around a table in the classroom gathering papers that we would need for the course. I was ‘professionally dressed,’ having gone to class straight from work, and a young guy who came in late thought I was the teacher and offered to help me distribute the papers! We ended up becoming good friends and having several other classes together.”

“On that first day I discovered there were students of all ages, including mine, in the class. As time went on I found that I had something to offer the younger students: my life experience.” In particular she recalls how Richins would ask students to read out loud in class, something Readel excelled at. “There was a young girl in the class who would stammer and struggle to read out loud; she got very nervous. We were talking one day and she asked me how I read out loud so easily. I told her I imagined that I was reading to my granddaughter and suggested that she imagine she was reading to her own young daughter when asked to read. Over the rest of the semester I watched her reading out loud improve, and it made me feel great to be able to help someone else. I realized that my fear of being the oldest person in the class was silly and that my years of life experience enabled me to bring a different and valuable perspective to the classroom.”

Professor Richins became one of Readel’s favorite NPC instructors, helping her ease into the live classroom setting. She is no longer uncomfortable about being in a classroom and advises others, “Don’t be afraid to talk to your teachers about what is going on in your life. They really do listen and care about you as a student and will help you through the rough spots.”

Readel was inducted in Phi Theta Kappa, the inter-national honor society for two-year college students, and in May 2015 received her Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in Administrative Information Systems – Administrative Office Management with highest distinction (GPA of 3.9 – 4.0).

Her advice to others considering coming back or starting college for a better education or career: “Don’t be afraid, set a goal and pursue it with all you have.”

 Everett Robinson