Difficult start with higher education motivates professor

Dr. Erika Warnick looks to always make the learning process exciting for her students.

An associate professor of reading and education at South Plains College, Dr. Warnick grew up in Boston, Massachusetts. She moved to Lubbock 14 years ago after working for 17 years as a college recruiter, researcher and research assistant.

She was always passionate about teaching and wanted specifically to be a college professor.

So to achieve this dream, she decided to return to college. Dr. Warnick got her PhD in education in 2013 from Texas Tech University. She is currently working on a second master’s degree in reading and writing from Western New Mexico University.

This semester, Dr. Warnick is dedicating her time teaching college reading strategies, teaching integrated reading, and English 1301. She also teaches an online class of Learning Frameworks, both for seven weeks and 16 weeks.

Before she became an instructor at SPC, Dr. Warnick attempted a music degree at Plymouth State College in New Hampshire. Her skills as a musician made it possible for her to pursue her education, along with her passion of playing the flute. But she found herself struggling with academic classes.

“After my first semester, my music grades were fabulous, but all of my other grades were not,” explained Dr. Warnick. “So I was put on probation. Then the second semester came, and it didn’t get any better.”

After visiting her family, she decided to take a break from school and work. But she later realized how difficult life can get.

“I was a teacher’s aid, and I got paid nothing,” Dr. Warnick recalled. “I mean, very little. And if classes were cancelled, I didn’t get paid, and so I started to kind of see what life was like if I didn’t have a plan and I didn’t have a good job.”IMG_0055

Grateful to receive a second chance to pursue a college education, Dr. Warnick said she did “a complete turnaround.” She found tutors, went to the academic resource center, and met with faculty to make sure they knew her and her story so they knew she was serious.

After graduating with honors, Dr. Warnick was hired by the college that she attended. She says that her love for teaching grew while she was working as a recruiter in 2002 at a college in Boston. She not only had to go to classrooms and introduce the high school students to college, but she also met parents and explained the application process. That made her realize she wanted to be involved in the process of teaching.

She returned to college to get a doctoral degree to become a college professor. In 2013, while working on her PhD, Dr. Warnick was introduced to SPC.

“I just started meeting people at Texas Tech who had either gone to SPC or worked at SPC, and they just always said such great things about the school,” explained Dr. Warnick.

Her first contacts with SPC were through Dr. Gail Malone, who is now her boss, and an ex vice president of the college.

One of the reasons why Dr. Warnick was very interested in teaching at SPC is the fact the college is focused on the success of the student,and there is an emphasis on teaching.

Dr. Warnick said she always looks to share her first experience in college with her students to encourage them to improve themselves and see that everyone is capable of being successful, not only in college but with overcoming a difficult time in life.

“I just don’t want students to make the mistakes I made,” said Dr. Warnick.

Using her experience as a student who struggled in college, Dr. Warnick tries to make her class an engaging environment where students can have fun and learn.

“I’m always trying to keep it moving and change it so that it’s exciting and people will be encouraged to learn,” said Dr. Warnick. “I think there needs to be opportunities for students to apply and try in a safe environment where they can make mistakes but learn and almost self correct.”

She said that a challenging part of her job is when she sees a student who could give or do more, but maybe is scared.

“That’s why I encourage them and, I want them to be successful,”  Dr. Warnick said, “because I know they can.”

Dr. Warnick says that another challenging part of her job is to not only make sure students are receiving the right material and encouragement, but also the preparation involved to speak to the students.

“I have learned a lot of lessons of my own,” Dr. Warnick added. “But I have had to do a lot of research and read about different teaching techniques to be able to speak to different learners.”

Her professional goals are to continue to be part of the SPC faculty, and be more involved in getting to create opportunities and courses for students in the future.

Besides being an instructor, Dr. Warnick enjoys practicing with her flute and attending Lubbock Symphony concerts. She also enjoys the company of her little cat, Yogi, and her family currently living in Lubbock, Texas.

Another of her hobbies is travelling with her husband Jay. They are fascinated with history, so they spend quality time taking road trips to visit different towns and learn about it.

Dr. Warnick said that her favorite activity is being in the classroom. Her passion for teaching is very engaging and helps make the experience of learning enjoyable.

“When you get to do what you love, you don’t worry about the money or anything,” Dr. Warnick explained. “I have found what I love, and I found where I love it.”

Dr. Warnick added, “I tell my students I could win the lottery and I’ll still be here on Monday morning at 8 a.m.. Because I love what I do.”

Author: Victoria de Souza

I am from north of Brazil, this is my sophomore year in Public Relation major in South Plains College.

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