Northeastern Junior College recognizes six dedicated retirees – Sterling Journal-Advocate
Northeastern Junior College bids farewell to a group of dedicated employees who left a lasting legacy. Brad Coats, Structure Trades Technician II; David Coles, professor of chemistry/astronomy; Shelby Nichols, professor of chemistry; Mike Vair, math teacher; Doug Werner, Structure Trades Technician II; and Tracy Yahn, EMS and fire safety coordinator, who represent a combined 143 years of college service, were honored at a retirement reception Thursday.
“We have six outstanding retirees this year and it’s very difficult to say goodbye to them,” said Steve Smith, vice president of student services.
Coats has been serving the NJC for 22 years without interruption. Physical plan director Tracey Knox called him a great electrician and a good person to know.
“He is always friendly, always ready to go the extra mile to help anyone. He’s a great worker and I’m sorry to see him go,” Knox said.
Werner served the NJC for 14 years. Knox called him a great locksmith and one of the finest carpenters he ever knew, particularly gifted in building cabinetry.
“He’s always ready to come no matter what and say ‘hey, call me if you have a problem with a lock or anything.’ He did a great job,” Knox said.
Nichols is in his 29th full-time year at the NJC. She taught mostly inorganic and organic chemistry classes, helped with the math and science club, and she was instrumental in recycling on campus.
She also has several years of service on safety committees and has worked to bring many health initiatives to campus. Additionally, she enjoys helping out at the Culture Fair and is always happy to share culinary traditions and cultures from around the world with NJC students.
“Shelby is known for her compassion and empathetic heart. She has been more flexible in accommodating students than anyone I know, she comes on weekends, she comes in the evening, she has study sessions, her athletes prepare labs, she changes lab times to welcome the athletes. She really goes above and beyond to help students succeed,” said Brenda Zink, chair of the science, technology, engineering, and math department.
Nichols cares about her students as if they were her own children and is so dedicated to them that even when she had problems during her pregnancy, she didn’t call in sick, she just taught lying in front of the room. She helps students take the next step in their education, and Zink said it’s been great to see how many students come back many years later to see her and others in the department.
Nichols shared that when she and her husband, Dave Coles, first arrived in Sterling in the summer of 1993, they thought they would only be here for a few years, but soon realized they didn’t want to. not leave.
“It was great, a great place to raise kids. We met a lot of great people,” she said.
Some of his fondest memories are taking students hiking and caving on the Math and Science Club’s annual trip to Utah.
Coles, who retired last year with a transition year this year, served the CNM full-time for 25 years. He taught astronomy, geology, chemistry, and environmental science for most of his time at Northeastern. For three years before starting full-time, he was an assistant professor of history and science.
Prior to teaching, Coles worked in the field as a geologist and often brought that real-world experience into his classroom. In addition to teaching, he has always helped the Maths and Sciences Club, taking over sponsorship in 2016. He has also served on the advisory committee on the quality of student life and learning, the diversity committee and the faculty senate.
“If you needed him, Dave was there to serve you,” Zink said. “Dave is known for his calm demeanor and compassion. His classes were always filled with non-majors, so Dave worked tirelessly to help these students love science and succeed.
Coles is innovative in his teaching and was the first to really take Nearpod, incorporate it and successfully use it in all of his classrooms, and he can always be counted on to help.
“It’s been so wonderful working with all of you, I’ve enjoyed it very much and I think it was probably one of the best decisions of my life to stay at Sterling and teach,” he said. .
Vair served the NJC for 28 years. He taught physics and math classes early in his career, then switched to all math classes seven or ten years ago.
In addition to teaching, he mentored concurrent enrollment math teachers and was instrumental in creating a common final for every college algebra class taught both on campus and at local high schools. , to ensure that every student, regardless of location, learned the same material and had the same high standards. Vair has also set up common duties for the same reason. In addition, he served on the Curriculum and Instruction Committee for many years.
“Mike is also known for his innovative teacher and he is a master of technology,” Zink said, discussing his use of the Microsoft Surface tablet and how he convinced NJC officials to use Perkins funds. to purchase a Surface for all math faculty members. department, as iPads could not be used for online assignments.
In the classroom, Vair is known for giving worldly advice, “he breaks up his difficult teaching with helpful long-term advice for students and really gets them thinking,” Zink said.
“Thank you, I had a wonderful time,” Vair said.
Yahn is in his 24th full-time year in college. After earning her Bachelor of Commerce degree from Metro State University, she became involved in NJC’s EMS program, completing the basic and advanced EMT certification programs. Yahn worked part-time for the Logan County Private Ambulance Service for 18 years.
She began serving on the NJC’s EMS Advisory Committee in 1994 and began teaching part-time in the health and safety and EMS programs in 1996. In 2000, she took over the EMS program and in 2003 her work continued. developed when she received the science of fire. duties to work with the local fire department to coordinate ongoing firefighter training. During that time, Yahn was instrumental in the success of Wildfire College, which was housed at NJC for five years and attracted more than 500 firefighters for week-long training each January.
Following Wildfire College, Yahn recognized the potential and need for a formal fire science degree at NJC. She led the approval process through the Colorado Community College System and in 2007 her work increased again, when the NJC gained approval for the AAS and Fire Science Technology program.
In 2010, the health and safety program was added to her duties, making her responsible for coordinating the provision of CPR and first aid courses.
NJC’s EMS program continues to offer off-campus EMS courses, with Yahn serving Julesburg, Holyoke, Peetz, and Yuma. When not on the road, her work also includes writing grant applications. She has received and managed over $490,000 in grant funds used for EMS Scholarships.
“Although Tracy’s workload has steadily increased, her love for the field has also increased. Tracy is always positive, she takes every opportunity to stay up to date and we all know the need is ever increasing to train and retain new paramedics and firefighters, so I’m so grateful that Tracy will help continue the success of our EMS, fire, health and safety,” Zink said.
Yahn said she wasn’t sure she wanted the job when she first took on the EMS program. At that time, her children were small and she wanted to be a full-time mother, but when college said they would work with her children’s schedule, she decided to give it a try. It’s a decision she hasn’t regretted.
“I want to express my gratitude to God for putting me in the right place at the right time to be here. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that God put me here,” Yahn said, telling the audience “the favorite thing about this job is all of you; the relationships I have built are deep. Thank you; I have many fond memories of all of you.