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My colleague from Glendale High School (John Wayne's alma mater) where I taught English/journalism previously with her, had joined the FC faculty and told me about the job opening. I applied and got the job. Before moving to Orange County, I drove from Duarte for the 18 years I worked at FC.
From the day I first set foot on the campus, I felt at home. I loved atmosphere, the beautiful buildings, the welcoming staff, the energy of the students who were in classrooms or out on the lawns studying. I felt hopeful about being hired. Four faculty members interviewed me and it was as if we had been long-time friends. It seemed "meant to be" and in a few days I was offered the position. My academic background provided the knowledge I needed; the practical experience I had as a working journalist for newspapers, a magazine and television seemed to provide me with the hands-on preparation needed to teach students how to write for and actually publish professional-level publications that would be read by those on the 22,000-student/ 800-faculty and staff campus. It turned out to be a good fit.
I taught journalism classes, created a new writing course which is still in the curriculum, "Freelance Writing", served ten years as faculty adviser of the Hornet newspaper and, in addition, supervised the Torch Magazine some years. I took all of my students on field trips to journalism conventions once a year and also to attend each semester actual criminal-court trials in downtown Los Angeles, including some of the famous cases. I took three different groups to New York City, helping raise money for airfare and hotels, to attend the Columbia (University) Scholastic Press Association annual conventions and journalism competitions. Twice we were nominated for their highest award The Gold Crown in College Journalism. We won it once, to the delight of all us present. Having flown in on the "red eye" flight from Los Angeles to save money, looking pretty tired and wrinkled, we joined a large gathering of college students and their faculty advisors in New York City and when we heard the words, "And the Gold Crown goes to the Hornet newspaper from Fullerton College in California," we leaped to our feet, high-fived and screamed with delight--a very different reaction from students and faculty members from Ivy League Colleges who had just before us been given 2nd, 3rd and honorable mention. They all accepted politely and the crowd applauded quietly and politely. No cheering, no outbursts of emotions. They were prep-school trained and they all dressed the part. The faculty members wore dark, conservative suits. We were Californians and also dressed the part in our rainbow of wild colors. Despite other awards and honors in my lifetime, seeing my students be honored nationally ranks as what the psychologist Maslow calls "a peak experience."
The college had a family atmosphere. Students called me Julie. I called them by their first names. We ate together daily in the Hornet classroom, sometimes all three meals on deadline days, and were always talking about an upcoming article for the paper or what a great layout the newspaper would have using a photo that a student had just taken. Students who were not on the newspaper staff still hung out at the Hornet and soon they became their own club of sorts. There was always food to eat, something I learned early-on. The students had very little money and if I brought doughnuts and juice or El Pollo Loco, we got a lot more accomplished. Pizza was a standard every noon on Thursdays. The students formed lasting friendships and some dated one another. Two marriages that I know of resulted from the Hornet staff interactions. I attended other weddings of journalism students who married across the curriculum. Sadly, I attended and spoke at two funerals of students as well. One was 96 years old and came to college to learn to write her life's story; the other was a 19-year-old killed in a traffic accident. Both times, a large contingent of journalism students came. I also participated in the college committees, represented the Technology and Engineering Division on the Faculty Senate, was president of the Faculty Association, a group that welcomed both faculty and staff to all events and cooked and then served welcome-back breakfast at the beginning of the school year and a Bar-B-Q for retirees at the end of school in June. Again, there was no separation between faculty, staff and students. We were family.
Jane Armstrong, vice president, was a friend and mentor as well as an inspiration. Dr. John Walker, professor of German and director of the Semester Abroad, program was also a dear friend. Both loved their jobs. Students were their focus and remained as such for their entire careers. They were my heroes. Larry Taylor, journalism teacher and advisor to the Hornet and Torch before me, was my teacher and mentor. He knew all about advertising and had been a professional in the business. The Hornet and Torch never ended up in the red, thanks to his expertise. He had done my job and set the tone for excellence in journalism. We had fun and loved to attend journalism conventions with our students.
To me, the biggest changes are that no changes of significance have taken place. FC is a family. Period. The students are the focus and the faculty and staff understand that and act accordingly. Those who don't realize what is important end up leaving or not getting tenure.
One particular Faculty Senate meeting was held during a very controversial time. Routinely, my colleagues and I often passionately debated issues and often voiced differing opinions on almost everything. Yet, on that one day, we all were of one mind and voted 100% "no confidence in the college president" and she was ultimately removed from her position. It was that day that I realized that despite our vast political and even philosophical differences, my colleagues at Fullerton College had, under difficult circumstances, agreed on what was best for our students, staff and faculty. After the vote was taken, silence prevailed for several minutes. It was not a matter for cheering or celebration. It was something the FC Family had to do.
My best students were known for their pranks. One student, Kimberly Sims, edito-in-chief of the newspaper and (now an executive at Disneyland), somehow located and dressed up in a "Haz-Mat" suit, all white with a breathing mask covering her face and mouth and came into journalism classroom, which was already in session interrupting my lecture. She carried, what I later found out was a fire extinguisher, its hose pointed toward the floor and she officially seemed to check the levels of something near where the floor and walls met. Up and down she marched. But, she said nothing as she went throughout the room, pretending to search for radiation leaks. Who knew? I stopped teaching, gasped, and wondered if we should evacuate the room. Then, someone yelled out to me, "Julie! It's just Kim!" as everyone laughed and she ran from the classroom. I continued my lecture but whenever I see her, I remind her of her previous career.
Enjoy the process. Learn from each other and your professors. Find a mentor. Expect to do lots of hard work and remember the famous quote on the sign I used to have on my office door, "The harder I work, the luckier I get."
I found that students would write about very personal they would not discuss in class or tell other students privately. I took that lesson from students, created a class for my fellow cancer patients at City of Hope called Writing for Wellness, and for 10 years volunteered there. The book has been adopted by churches, medical centers, one medical school and lots of senior centers. Without my Fullerton College students who taught me that stories and feelings are often hidden from others, waiting for an opportunity to emerge, I would never have created that class and the book would never have been written. But thanks to my FC students, classes continue to be held in many states.
"Enjoy the process. Learn from each other and your professors. Find a mentor."
Hornet Newspaper Advisor
Staff of Distinction
Club Advisor of the Year
President of the Faculty Association
Member of Faculty Senate