On the Summer 2012 cover

April 5, 2012 by Anonymous

On this page  | Janice Cortina  |  Shannon Newman  |  Cynthia Yazzie  |  Kristin Jacobs

By Rose Kreher, NPC Staff Writer

Kristin Jacobs, Shannon Newman, Janice Cortina and Cynthia YazzieThe Learning Cornerstone (TLC) program at Northland Pioneer College provides a wide variety of services and courses to help persons of all ages and backgrounds achieve educational success. Whether it’s simply learning how to read, earning a high school diploma or developing academic skills to succeed in college or in life, TLC can help.

TLC instructors Shannon Newman [standing, right] (Painted Desert Campus, Holbrook) and Janice Cortina {seated, left] (Silver Creek Campus, Snowflake/Taylor) are pictured with two students, Cynthia Yazzie [seated] and Kristin Jacobs [standing, left], from the special TLC program that prepares individuals to earn their GED, the high school equivalency diploma. At NPC, the initial step to earning a GED is simply taking a free class from the college that provides an overview of TLC services and courses as well as pre-testing skills like mathematics and writing to determine which areas will require development. After that, individuals can decide to actually enroll in the college and study for the GED in a series of preparatory classes.

Like many faculty members in The Learning Cornerstone Cortina and Newman have extensive experience teaching younger students but now focus their expertise on helping adults achieve personal and academic success in non-threatening, comfortable educational environments.

Janice CortinaIn addition to being a faculty member in The Learning Cornerstone, Janice Cortina is the GED curriculum specialist. She’s been with NPC for five years, but her relationship with the college actually began more than two decades ago when she became a student at the Show Low campus. “I felt something special the minute I enrolled and actually hoped someday to teach at the school. So, it’s been a neat adventure for me to wind up back at NPC.”

After earning her Associate of Arts at NPC she headed straight to Northern Arizona University for her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education. She enjoyed a 17-year career as an educator in local elementary schools before deciding to shift her focus from teaching children to teaching adults.  In the spring of 2007, she earned a Master’s Degree from Walden University and joined NPC that fall as an adjunct (part-time) faculty member. For the past two years she has been a full-time instructor in The Learning Cornerstone and enthusiastically praises the program’s unique method of teaching adult basic education students in the same class as those seeking to earn their GED. “That way, the whole class concentrates on the same subject at the same time and the students support each other and learn together.”

Students in The Learning Cornerstone are often a broad mix of young and old with different educational backgrounds and a wide variety of goals for themselves. Cortina approaches this diversity by providing a risk-free environment for her students. “I’ve found that if they feel comfortable in the classroom, it’s a wonderful way to encourage success.”

Shannon NewmanBased on a lifelong interest in math plus years of teaching experience, TLC faculty member Shannon Newman is the program’s mathematics curriculum specialist.

She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in math/secondary education from Chatham College in Pittsburgh. Following graduation, Shannon looked around the country for a teaching position. After a job interview in North Dakota failed to appeal to the newly credentialed teacher, Shannon made a long distance call to Holbrook about a math opening at the high school. An offer was made over the phone and she accepted, site unseen! She explains,  “I didn’t think it could be any worse than where I was when I called.”

She found the area to her liking and spent nine years teaching math at Holbrook and Winslow high schools, earning a Master’s of Secondary Education in Mathematics degree from NAU and teaching part time for NPC. After some persistence on the part of the college, Shannon was recruited to teach fulltime for The Learning Cornerstone at the Painted Desert Campus. She found that to her liking as well and has been with the college and TLC for eleven years now.

Shannon takes a broad view of the value of learning; it’s not all about finding a job or getting good grades, although those things are rarely possible without solid basic skills like reading and writing and mathematics. She says, simply, “The more education someone has, the better choices they can make.”

She takes great pride in the scope of what The Learning Cornerstone offers area residents. “We have courses that go from learning the letters of the alphabet to preparing for college-level work.”

Two NPC students, Cynthia Yazzie and Kristin Jacobs, are examples of the positive impact TLC can have on individuals. Cynthia, wife and mom to 5 kids, made the decision to go back to school and “accomplish something I didn’t when I was young,” she contacted TLC instructor Janice Cortina at the NPC Snowflake campus who encouraged her to register for the GED orientation classes. “At first I was nervous about going to school with kids, but it was a totally different story since there were others in the class my age and some were even older than me!”

With her husband and kids cheering her on, Cynthia has taken classes on a part-time basis for two years. She will be taking her GED test this summer!

In the north end of the county, Kristin Jacobs was a high school dropout 20 years ago. In the intervening time she had some good jobs, but that was before the current economy left her looking for work but unable to be hired. “I couldn’t even get a job as a custodian because I didn’t have a high school diploma!” Two years ago, Kristin enrolled in the GED orientation program at the Painted Desert Campus. “I was scared to take that step, but … I wanted more out of life for me and my kids!”

Kristin not only passed her GED, but also took advantage of a tuition waiver offered by NPC for those who successfully pass the test after participating in the TLC program. Today she’s a full-time NPC student … and loving it. “For right now,” Kristin says, “I’m concentrating on graduating from NPC. I might go to university when my kids are old enough, but who knows? There are so many possibilities!”