COM Alumnus John Carroll is the Superintendent of the Bolinas-Stinson & Lagunitas School Districts.
COM set me up for success for my post-secondary journey. Instruction at College of Marin was consistently excellent and more personalized than anywhere I have been since.
I went to college for a long time: I have a Bachelor’s Degree from Cal Poly, a Master’s Degree and three teaching credentials from Sonoma State. I’ve completed courses and certificates at Stanford and UC Berkeley. But for some reason, maybe the quality of instruction, the concern for undergraduate learning or maybe because it was such a bargain, my College of Marin experience stands out.
One of the best among many good examples of that personalization was my Critical Thinking class with Professor Nancy Cavender. I clearly remember a conversation with her in 1984; she had just reviewed a speech analysis I had written. She told me that is was fine, that it met course expectations and so on.
Then she paused. She looked at me in frustration, slightly shaking her head. I may not remember the exact words but these are pretty close, “I just expected more from you. You could have chosen a more challenging piece to start with and dug in much deeper than you did.” She came across as genuinely disappointed, even personally hurt by my failure to have given the assignment my best effort. I got the distinct feeling that she cared about me and the work I was doing and firmly believed that good was not really good enough.
Research in education shows us that perhaps the one best thing that teachers can do for their students is to let them know that they have high expectations for them. Professor Cavender and many of her colleagues at COM demonstrated that every day. So by the time I left COM, I found myself academically well prepared but more importantly, I found a new attitude and a much stronger belief that I could do well in college.
On a less philosophical but economically important note, College of Marin was the postsecondary deal of the century! I was able to complete enough general education units at COM to earn a Bachelor’s degree in 4 years after graduating high school and walk out the door debt free. It is heartening to see that College of Marin still represents such a phenomenal value.
I may have left the hallowed halls of COM a few years ago but my interactions with their current staff members and leaders tell me that the spirit of the College remains as it was, that this is a place where all students can begin meaningful work toward success in their lives.