Bakersfield instructor pushes students to “dream in color”
Terrance Verdun was groomed all his young life to teach. His parents Patricia and Hayward made it known that, in their family, the older of their six children were responsible for teaching their younger siblings. “There was always a teaching moment in our household, especially when they thought it was something we should know,” says Terry. And if you didn’t know the answer? “They would say, ‘The encyclopedia will help you with that.’”
Along with that responsibility, Terry and his brothers and sisters were also given encouragement to dream big – and in color. It wasn’t advice they always took in the direction it was intended.
“I rode the high school rodeo circuit and wanted to travel rodeos for the rest of my life,” Terry remembers. “My sister, Deon, wanted to be a Soul Train dancer, and she practiced every day. My mother would give us the mother look and say, ‘Don’t tell that to anybody else.’”
Their town Verdunville was named for their early ancestors from France who settled there to grow sugar cane in the early 1700s. It was important that their family name continue to carry a legacy of pride and accomplishment.
Terry took a more practical path, working in escalating positions of management and training for major businesses while completing his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. During his early college years, he worked three part-time jobs that added up to full-time employment. He was the only family member his mother allowed to help frost cakes in her bakery business. He was also the weekend greeter for the local tourist commission and, contrary to his lifelong reluctance to pose for photos, he worked as a model for artists, illustrators and photographers.
In 2001, Terry’s best friend Don, who had graduated from SJVC’s Clinical Medical Assisting program and was now working as an instructor for the program, mentioned that the Bakersfield campus was recruiting for an instructor position. Terry submitted an application, then interviewed with a selection panel. Two days later, Terry was invited to return and give a teach-back presentation. He was offered a part-time position that moved to full-time within the year.
In years since, Terry has only become more excited about his role in students’ lives. He thrives in the classroom where he teaches General Education and Business Administration. “It’s not slow-paced, and that’s what I enjoy. Students come at you in a dynamic of questions and answers, and time goes by really quickly.”
Terry feels the full weight of his influence in the classroom. “I’m responsible for assisting [people] in ways that impact their lives. I’m responsible for what I touch, so I take pride in that.” It is a role and point of accomplishment he quickly grew into.
“When I first started teaching, I understood the mechanics of teaching, but didn’t know the finer nuances of making it exciting for students,” he says. “Now I can steer class discussion in ways that allow them to personalize the topic with their own work and life experiences. It impacts them a little more, and we still meet the lesson’s objective that day.”
But Terry does some of his best work when he is just being himself. “I’m out and about when students are on break and I speak to everybody on campus. That’s natural for me because that’s how I was brought up. I always tell them to have a good night and to be safe.” Terry is working evenings right now, while he works on his dissertation for a Doctorate degree.
Terry’s friendly spirit is well-known. “He is an inspirational individual that is always willing to assist students, graduates, and all of his staff members with open arms,” says Stephanie Landa, Career Services Advisor. “He always walks the halls in our campus with a smile, and he also motivates anyone that crosses his way.”
“We are all part of that indoctrination of student support on campus,” says Terry. “Our students know that if they’re having an issue, they can stop me and ask me anything. It doesn’t matter what office they go in to, they will be more than happy to help you. It is our culture on campus to do everything we can to serve our customer – which is the student.”
Many SJVC students have families at home who are watching and waiting for them to complete their programs and leave with something that will make their lives better. Sometimes an even greater benefit to the education, financial and career advantages a parent or sibling brings home, is the example of what sacrifice, persistence and confidence can accomplish.
“Kids are watching and listening all the time,” says Terry. “I had a math student I tutored on Fridays whose daughter, in first or second grade, would write down what her mom was writing down. I asked my student a math question and after a few seconds, her daughter raised her hand. She answered the question correctly.”
Terry and his brothers and sisters watched their parents closely and took many lessons into their careers and lives. “I tell my students that even if you had bad parents, they teach you something. Maybe they teach you that you don’t want to be like them.” That is a powerful lesson, too.
Sometimes you must be the first person to believe in yourself. Or, sometimes you hear the voice of a trusted teacher. “I remind them to go out, live, educate yourself, expand your horizons. I remind them to dream in color.”
Terry may not have a collection of belt buckles from the rodeo circuit and his sister may not be a back-up dancer for J.Lo, but their life choices have, undoubtedly, served them better with the colors they chose.
Important information about the educational debt, earnings and completion rates of students who attended SJVC can be found here.