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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Temecula Instructor/Student Resource Coordinator shines in role with SJVC students

September 22, 2016
Tamara Earnhardt uses her Snap Chat wall to motivate students to complete their Study Plans.

Even though Tamara Earnhardt spent several years in the restaurant industry, she always knew she should be an instructor.

“Ever since I was a kid, I knew I wanted to be a teacher,” she reflects. “I used to make homework for my little sister, Kristy, during summer breaks. I was the teacher, she was the banker, which is funny because she grew up to be a CPA.”

Tammy embraced her destiny, as well. By 2008, she was a student teacher for fourth graders, while keeping a foot in the restaurant business. But teaching children just wasn’t as fulfilling as she expected. “I think I was in the wrong age group. I was used to working with adults at the restaurant.”

She stumbled into a teaching position at SJVC’s Temecula campus when she went there with a friend who was interested in the Medical Assisting program. She soon interviewed for a psychology instructor position there and threw herself into the role she was meant to play in others’ lives.

Teaching only part-time, Tammy was eventually recruited for the Student Resource Coordinator position on campus. That’s when she really started to fly.

“I didn’t even know this was something I wanted to do,” she confesses. “I love it!” Now full-time, it is Tammy’s responsibility to get degree-program students through their MyLabs Study Plans before they start their General Education courses in Math and English.

“The Study Plan is like a prerequisite for Math and English that allows students to brush up on their skills,” says Tammy. Study Plans must be completed prior to taking those two classes, so that students can have a more successful educational experience.

Imagine a fine balance between Mary Poppins and Miss Manners, and you will see the perfect persona Tammy adopts to engage, prod and support the 75 to 90 students she works with at any given point.

“I introduce the Study Plan at Orientation and meet individually with students during their first week. After they take a 2-hour assessment, I show them how to do the course on their own,” says Tammy, who stays in constant touch for support and progress reports.

Tammy wants students to work at their own pace, and feel supported. “I want them to know they have a place to come to when they need help and that they can e-mail me with questions; or call – I even tutor over the phone,” she says.

She also knows when to crack her color-coded whip.

Tammy has a color card system that lets her know where each student is with their Study Plan; how much review, practice and tests are undertaken. Green: Students who are fully prepared to go forward in Study Plans; Yellow: Students who are making good progress; Hot Yellow: Students who are 5 weeks away from Math or English class start dates and have not completed Study Plan; Red: Students who started Math or English class who have not yet completed Study Plans.

“I don’t ever let them turn red,” says Tammy. “If I see hot yellow, I’m on it! They see me coming with the cards, and they really don’t want to disappoint. I hope they see me as a motivator, as an encourager.”

“Tammy is an instrumental part of Temecula success,” says Robyn Whiles, Campus Director. “Besides teaching each mod, she is the constant force within the SRC/Library, providing tutoring, study skills and support to students.”

Tammy gets creative with her motivational support with a Snap Chat wall that shows pictures of students who complete their Study Plans early. “It creates a little bit of buzz, and students want to be up there on the wall,” says Tammy.

Whether in the classroom or in the Student Resource Center, Tammy wants her students to know that she has an open-door policy of support. “I don’t even have a door, and I’m open and available to them at all times. I try to greet every single one by name as they come in.”

Tammy is in her teaching element. “I love to explain concepts and break them down; I like to see the light bulbs come on,” she affirms. “Motivation and encouragement; that’s how I teach.”

The motto she passes on to her students: Work hard, play hard. “Get everything done, then go have some fun.” A lot of that happens during her classes. “Every day my students crack me up.”

Good times bond those who share them. “I tell my students to value their relationships,” says Tammy. “You never know who you are going to meet and how they will impact your life.”

What Tammy wants most for her students is for them to look back on their experience with SJVC as a positive one. “I want them to be successful in life,” she says. She very much enjoys her part in helping them get to that point.

“I love to see them on graduation day,” says Tammy. “That’s the time you remember how much they’ve grown throughout their time here. You see them walk across the stage with those big smiles, and there they go. Then, there are new students, and you start all over again.”

It is a cycle that Tammy Earnhardt has anticipated and enjoyed since she and her sister played pretend all those years ago.