From students to staff: Coming full circle

Alumni explain their journeys back to City College

Originally published in the Dec. 9, 2014 print edition of the Sac City Express

Photo by Emily Foley

Photo by Emily Foley

For many, attending community college is a means to earn a degree in order to gain employment. For others, the “community” in community college means working with teachers who truly care about the future of their students in an effort to better themselves.

Not only did City College English professor and department chair Joshua Roberts experience the latter scenario, he decided to become one of those teachers. A self-described poor student leading up to his graduation from Kennedy High School, Roberts began attending City College in 1991.

“I was a horrible student in high school,” says Roberts. “[It wasn’t] because I wasn’t sharp enough, I was just a bad student. When I came here, I was pretty clueless as to what I wanted to do. I kind of took classes on and off for about five years, just enough to still be in school but not really.”

It was at that point that Roberts decided he wanted to become a teacher.

“It was the instructors here that really helped me learn how to be a student and focus myself and go after the things that I wanted,” says Roberts, who shares with his students that he attended City College and went through similar struggles as a way to help them feel like he knows what they’re going through. “I wanted to be able to give back and be able to help others the way people had helped me.”

After spending two years at City College on a quest for “academic renewal,” Roberts, who became a straight-A student, transferred to Sac State to pursue his career. He graduated with his Bachelor’s degree in English in May of 2001, and by September, he began a two-year internship teaching at Kennedy High School to earn his teaching credential through Sac State.

Roberts says he enjoyed being a student and wanted to earn more money, so he got his Master’s degree from Sac State in order to teach at the college level. After working at City College part time for a while beginning in 2005, a full-time position opened up and he got the job after the first interview.

Roberts, who also plays in a cover band and writes songs when he isn’t working, says he decided to teach at City College because it was such an important part of his journey. He adds that, aside from teaching high school, he has never considered working anywhere else.

However, Roberts says he may want to go into administration one day, but that his biggest enjoyment comes from getting through to struggling students.

“My passion and my love is in the classroom,” says Roberts. “As a teacher…you’re really working and pouring yourself into another person, so when you’re able to [help] the student who needs that and the student responds to that in a positive way, there’s just very few things that are more rewarding.”

Please click the jump to see the second portion of this feature article, which was a Q&A (compiled by Daniel Wilson) with other former students who now work for City College.

Professors and staff answer questions on how they came back to City College (Q&A)

Crystal Lee – Public Relations Technician

What years did you attend City College as a student, and how long have you worked for City College? What other, if any, positions have you held at SCC?

“I was a student in 2000-2002. I was hired at SCC in June 2012.”

Describe the path you took from City College student to City College employee.

“As a student at Sac City, I was very involved in the Express newspaper production class. I was a staff writer one semester and then the news editor and online editor the following semester. I considered it a job and loved every late night working to meet deadlines. In 2002, I transferred to UC Davis and graduated in 2004 with a degree in International Relations. After I graduated, I did a brief stint as a coffee barista, then a receptionist for a general contractor for construction projects. I got promoted to project coordinator, then accepted a better paying position at another contracting company. Then, I got laid off. In my state of unemployment, I decided to take a chance and see if I could make a living as a journalist. I switched gears and accepted a position as the Publicity and Development Manager at the Davis Art Center. Then, I was excited to hear about an opening at Sac City in the Public Information Office — I knew I would love working at Sac City, since I have so many good memories about this place. Not to mention the job was in the communications field, which was exactly what I was looking for. In my interview, I emphasized what Sac City meant to me as a student and how rewarding it would be for me to advocate for and support this college.”

What inspired you to want to work for this particular community college?

“It was as a student at SCC that I began taking responsibility for my life as an adult and began heading in the direction that I wanted for myself. It was here that I finally had the opportunities and freedom to explore my interests and build the confidence that would lead me to where I am today. Everyone should have access to higher education, and community colleges like SCC serve a demographic of people who might otherwise not have the opportunity to attend college.”

Rachel Leibrock – Professor of Journalism

What years did you attend City College as a student, and how long have you worked for City College? What other, if any, positions have you held at SCC?

“I attended City College from 1988-1991; I started teaching here in 2008. Initially, I taught English and then moved over to journalism.”

Describe the path you took from City College student to City College employee.

“I left City College in 1991 with an A.A. in Languages & Literature. From there, I transferred to Sacramento State, where I did a double major in Communication Studies and Journalism. I started working professionally in 1995. Along the way I always knew I wanted to teach — I knew it as far back as when I was at City College. When I was in grad school at Mills College (2002-2004); I had to work as a teaching assistant but it was hard for me to do that on campus at Mills since I was commuting. I ended up working with Ginny McReynolds — my first journalism instructor at City College — in an English class. From there I was hooked.”

What inspired you to want to work for this particular community college?

“City College put me on the path to figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. I’ve always loved its diverse population and varied classes. Plus, it’s just a really beautiful campus.”

Paul Estabrook – Professor of Photography

What years did you attend City College as a student, and how long have you worked for City College? What other, if any, positions have you held at SCC?

“I started school there in [1991] and then I started working as an adjunct instructor in 2000 and I was hired full time in 2007.”

Describe the path you took from City College student to City College employee.

“I never ever thought about being a teacher. I got hired at the Sacramento Bee when I was a student at City College. When I left the Sacramento Bee, I started doing more freelance work, and then eventually I got interested in doing commercial photography. I was doing that full time for about seven years, and it just dawned on me one day that I needed some more assistance. I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll go talk to my old instructors,’ and I decided just to pop in one day. I started talking to Andy Delucia and he said he had no idea that I was a commercial photographer. After our conversation, he said, ‘you should teach here, we have one teacher leaving.’ I turned him down, walked down to the first floor of Rodda North and then I walked back up and said, ‘Hey, I’ll take you up on that.’ So we started the process of getting me hired.”

What inspired you to want to work for this particular community college?

“I love Sacramento City College and I think it’s a beautiful campus. It’s close to my home and I was a student there. So, I couldn’t imagine [working anywhere else] and I don’t really have a desire to do so. I feel incredibly fortunate because there’s not a lot of these positions teaching photography at community college. I couldn’t be happier.”

Chris Iwata – Dean of the Humanities and Fine Arts Division

What years did you attend City College as a student, and how long have you worked for City College? What other, if any, positions have you held at SCC?

“I attended SCC from 1974-76. I have worked at SCC for 32 years (1982 to present). Before becoming a dean in 1993, I was a full time instructor in the Communication Department and also served as the Director of Forensics (1982-1993).”

Describe the path you took from City College student to City College employee.

“I started at SCC in 1974. I completed my requirements to transfer from SCC to CSU Northridge in 1976. I transferred as a History/Journalism major but changed to Communication in my first year at Northridge. After receiving my [Bachelor’s degree] from Northridge, I pursued my MA in Communication at Northridge. After completing my MA in 1980, I was hired at Northridge as a temporary full-time Communication instructor and Director of Forensics to replace the tenured instructor who held the position but relocated to another university. I worked in this position from 1980-82. In 1982, a full-time tenure track position in Communication opened up at SCC. I applied and was fortunate enough to be hired.”

What inspired you to want to work for this particular community college?

“I welcomed the opportunity to return to SCC. I had many positive experiences, particularly with faculty and staff who took an interest in my future. Their advice and assistance were instrumental in helping me achieve my educational and professional goals. [I enjoy] working with colleagues at all levels to facilitate student success. Over the years, it has been gratifying to see so many students move forward in their lives. Some of them have even returned to work at the college or Los Rios District, as I did.”

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About Daniel Wilson

I am a student at California State University Sacramento (Sac State) majoring in journalism, pursuing a Bachelor's degree with a minor in communications. Please visit both www.saccitygamer.com and www.dwilsononline.com for more information.
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