Monday, October 8, 2012

Wrangling critters, helping students

Terri TimpeHer life is a zoo. Let’s do a quick snout count: Three dogs, five cats, six fish, 10 ducks, 10 hens, and, out in the pond, innumerable baby red-eared slider turtles—the unplanned offspring of a school science project.
     When Terri Timpe isn’t corralling critters, she’s wrangling kids. She has five, ranging from 33 to 10, plus seven grandchildren. She also volunteers at her kids’ school, co-owns Leavenworth (Wash.) Auto Care with her husband, Tim, and does drafting and business management for Munson Engineers in Wenatchee, Wash.
     Does she ever sleep? “I’m too interested in my day to lie in bed, and too busy at night to hit the pillow,” she said. “I usually go to bed after midnight, and rise by 6:30 to get the kids off to school.”
     But when her youngest son started elementary school, she paused a moment. She thought about how she’d always wanted to get her college degree. She looked back, with long regret, at turning down a full-ride scholarship to Stanford because she was too busy “finding herself.” More...      Then she learned she could earn her associate’s degree mostly online through Wenatchee Valley College. And decided that maybe she had too much downtime.
     “Basically, I took my books everywhere that I went,” she said. “Any spare moment—in the car, waiting at the doctor, waiting in the school parking lot for the kids—I would read.”
     She earned her two-year degree. She wanted a bachelor’s.
     “I chose WSU because it seemed to be the best online program and, believe me, I shopped around,” she said. “WSU Online is an excellent choice not only because of the flexibility, but because of the quality of the education.  I learned a vast amount from my online classes.”
     When Timpe graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in social sciences last December, she thought she was done with WSU. But WSU has a sharp eye for talent.
     In 2011, Alina Zollfrank was a virtual mentor in Timpe’s Asian philosophy course. Virtual mentors are WSU Online graduates who watch over course spaces to help students with non-academic problems.
     WSU started the virtual mentor program in 2003 with nine mentors, who are paid by the online student government. In 2010, the program won a first-place innovation award from the Center for Transforming Student Services. There are now about 30 mentors in nearly 100 classes.
     “Terri had a natural tendency to help fellow students with Angel, a willingness to ask questions that benefited the entire class, and a desire to make classmates feel welcome and appreciated,” said Zollfrank, who is still a virtual mentor, and works as a Hispanic outreach coordinator for Parent to Parent of Whatcom County. She recommended that Timpe join the virtual mentor program.
     Despite her burgeoning turtle population, Timpe decided she still wasn’t busy enough. She became a virtual mentor this fall.
     “It’s been an excellent way of sharing my experience and knowledge with those who might need it,” Timpe said. “I feel that WSU gave me so much, so it is my turn to pay it forward. WSU rocks and I tell everyone every chance that I get!”

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