Meet Amy Cops, Winner of the 2018 Chamber of Manitowoc County Education Impact Award
Amy is an ABE/GED Instructor, Manitowoc, General and Pre College Education, at Lakeshore Technical College’s Manitowoc Campus
How have you inspired participation from students, peers and other professionals that creates awareness about the quality of life in Manitowoc County?
As an educator in a non-traditional though very valuable role in our community, my primary goal is to help individuals without a high school diploma and those who need to review, learn or improve basic academic skills see a brighter future ahead through education. Many don’t have a driver’s license or cell phone, things most in our community consider basic items though are a luxury to the population I work with. I strive to share the positives in our community with them, my peers who have the same goals I do, and other professionals – and I do so very compassionately.
First and foremost, I focus on inspiring the population I work with by sharing the opportunities that are available through LTC to obtain basic education, and supporting them in every way possible to successfully obtain their GED or achieve a certain skill level. Education can be the key to getting someone on a path to economic self-sufficiency. I also encourage them to take advantage of the natural beauty and free resources available, such as our libraries, parks, public events, and activities. I will often meet students at the library and review the library’s resources right there so they are aware of them. I work in concert with Lakeshore CAP, Forward Services, and the One to One Literacy Council to connect students to their resources, all of which can help improve their well-being so they can enjoy more of what our community offers.
I do also see the abundance of arts, entertainment, and other wonderful events and activities that can be enjoyed in our community. Through education, my students will be able to participate in our workforce in a higher earning capacity and someday be able to appreciate and enjoy a higher quality of life that is available here in our community, and share that good with others.
Share how your involvement with a community or school activity makes a positive impact in Manitowoc County.
My main focus at LTC is to help students earn a General Education Diploma/High School Equivalency Diploma (GED/HSED) and a post-secondary credential. Having these can significantly improve an individual’s ability to earn a better wage due to having more employment opportunities and, therefore, positively impacting Manitowoc County. To increase retention and graduation rates, I drastically changed our program by providing more options for earning a high school credential and enrolling, or co-enrolling, in LTC programs. The newly developed courses provide direct instruction through a hands-on learning approach to meet the needs of adult learners. I encourage students to strongly consider the economic and personal satisfaction that a pathway from a GED/HSED to a program resulting in a technical diploma or certificate can offer them and their families.
One of the greatest challenges my students face is returning to school due to the feelings of embarrassment, anxiety, stress, and lack of confidence. These hurdles make it extremely difficult for adults to walk through the LTC doors. Immediately, I work to build a positive, trusting relationship with each student. Our LTC students truly amaze me. Their life stories inspire me to work endlessly to help them reach their fullest potential in education and obtain the most beneficial employment, a career they love, and a wage that can support them. Students are eager to work for a better future for themselves and their families.
Motivating students to continue when studies and other commitments make it difficult is one of my greatest strengths. Committing to something is an essential skill employers look for in employees; they want to know a potential employee can be dedicated to their job. I am often a student’s biggest cheerleader. From the start, I stress the importance of sharing with me if they feel like they have to quit when times get tough. We brainstorm solutions and create a plan to stay in school to completion. Common barriers for students include class or exam fees, transportation, and childcare. I have reached out to community organizations for financial, as well as personal assistance. I focus on developing the whole person academically and mentally/emotionally, striving for students to live self-satisfied balanced lives.
How do you currently utilize Manitowoc County business and community resources to enhance student-learning opportunities?
Currently, I collaborate with two community agencies, Lakeshore Community Action Program (CAP) and Forward Services, on a weekly basis. Together we have formed partnerships that provide students with readily accessible funding for learning opportunities. Students utilize these resources from the LTC classroom. Both Lakeshore CAP and Forward Services make funding available for tuition including GED/HSED and college courses, well as books and supplies, exam fees, and transportation. A few of my students inquired about completing a CPR/First Aid course as part of our health class. Lakeshore CAP arranged for payment of tuition and books. This was an exceptional benefit, greatly appreciated by these students who were interested in pursuing the EMT and Nursing Assistant programs. It was with great enthusiasm that I joined my students for this class, and share this example of how taking that first step toward obtaining an education credential can lead to the desire to learn even more.
One of my professional goals is to create a community resource center in our classroom. As a first step, my colleagues and I collected information from numerous agencies that can be resources for our students and created a categorized brochure for easy reference. I have been meeting with agency directors to gain first-hand knowledge about their programs and the services offered. By building these relationships, I serve as a bridge to help connect students with community programs.
Bringing in speakers from the community is another essential piece to my efforts. Recently, a mental health counselor presented an interactive program on the stresses of daily life with easy-to-incorporate coping strategies. I firmly believe in showing a balanced life with commitment to family, work, and relaxation is important to long-term success.