Victoria College Faculty Members Encourage, Challenge Students to Succeed

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Many people remember their favorite teacher or an instructor who inspired them.

Victoria College graduate Jonathan Sixtos lauds Professor Emeritus Harry Wagner with making rigorous classwork interesting.

“My favorite part of the class was that he could take something that seemed static and insignificant, like rocks, and reveal to his students how the past impacts the future,” the VC alum said. “He often incorporated water rights, oilfield exploration, and even government policies into classwork.”

Wagner, who retired in the spring after teaching 33 years at VC, smiles at the thought of being an inspiration.

“I’ve had a number of students tell me – after they’ve taken my geology courses – that they couldn’t walk up their driveway without picking up those rocks or a fossil,” Wagner said.

The newly-retired teaching veteran returned to VC as a professor emeritus, teaching geology and environmental science. He said one of his biggest joys is teaching and working with engaged students.

“We have a very challenging program, especially in academic courses,” Wagner said. “I’ve had comments from several students who have gone off to four-year universities, and they’ve been very successful. I have a former VC student attending St. Mary’s University Law School in San Antonio, and she says that my course in geology helped prepare her on how to learn and improve her study skills.”

Wagner said some universities have a tendency
to weed out students and don’t focus on working with the students as much as the faculty and staff at Victoria College do.

“We are willing to spend more effort in case the student needs additional time in preparation, clarification, or how to organize for tests,” he explained.

Teaching and learning has been a family affair for the longtime geology professor. His wife LeAnn was with Victoria College for 32 years and served as Dean of Allied Health for more than a decade before retiring in December 2012. After finishing at Victoria College, their two daughters attended Seton Hall, a “very rigorous school” in New Jersey. Wagner said the school accepted all of their Victoria College course credits without question. Wagner’s son attended Texas Lutheran University in Seguin, Texas, another academically rigorous school.

“We’ve had a number of former VC students attend Texas Lutheran, and they’ve been very successful,” he added. “I feel that if students will do a minimum of one year at VC, they will be prepared to be successful at these universities.”

Another Victoria College instructor who made an impact on Sixtos was Gina Ramirez-Mere.

“She always involved the class in ways that seemed interactive but not immature,” Sixtos recalled. “Her methods weren’t just a gimmick; they actually helped me learn to read and write Spanish.”

Ramirez-Mere lived in Victoria for four years but has since moved to Arkansas and continues to teach online Spanish classes to Victoria College students.

“Generally speaking, Victoria College students are all very apt and willing; they really have a desire to learn,” Ramirez-Mere said. “I have always been in awe of many of the students. They are absolutely amazing. Some of them have children and families.”

Although Ramirez-Mere is in another state, support for her online students is ever-present.

“They have to sign in every week with an email telling me where their problems are, and from those I can gauge if they are having difficulty with one concept or another,” she said. “Depending on what they say, we can set up appointments to either talk on the phone, Skype, or have additional email interactions. There is always a way to be involved with the students.”

She is quick to list the advantages of a community college, such as the lower costs and the community feel.

“Students can be more involved with their peers and with their professors,” she said. “They can be in much more of a family-type situation where people really care for one another — something that I have not seen at four-year universities.”

“Our professors go the extra mile to make students feel like they really are cared about,” she added.

Eric Jensen

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