Northeast Alabama Community College Office Administration Instructor Amy LaCount has always wanted to help people. That is why she became a teacher. She has served college students for many years, in several different capacities. In 2005, she decided that she wanted to help them in a different way, by teaching them the things she had learned over the years, so she set out to earn the credentials to be able to teach. “It took another ten years to achieve my goal, but I am so pleased to now be able to help students in yet another capacity,” said LaCount. “In many ways, it is a life-changer for them. That is so exciting to me to watch that happen for students!”
At Northeast, LaCount has the opportunity to teach both traditional and non-traditional college students. “I see all sorts of challenges and issues, but also huge gains and accomplishments,” she said. “I love the interaction between both types of students to help one another learn what is important to begin and/or further their careers. It also means so much to me to see a student change from when they first enter college, with a little anxiety, or low self-confidence to become more confident and professional, and realize that they can achieve their goal and make a change.”
Students in LaCount’s classes range from 19 to 70, and everywhere in between. She explained that it is very rewarding to watch them interact after the first few days of class and the way that they encourage each other. “The traditional students may be able to share more about technology, but the non-traditional students often lead and mentor through their life and work experiences. They’re both a very valuable part of the classroom.”
LaCount truly loves the profession of teaching as she helps students make life changes. “Honestly, it means so much to me when I have a student who reaches out to me after he or she has graduated and either found a whole new career, or has been able to move up in their current employment,” she offered. “I love to hear how they are doing and that they have been able to do better for themselves and their families. I especially enjoy meeting their family members and the student introducing me as ‘someone who helped change their life’. That means the world to me.”
In recommending the profession of teaching to her students, LaCount tells them that that they must have a mindset that enables them to help people, above and beyond what their job description might say. “You have to be able to do it in a way that you can still be stern and disciplined when you need to be about your assignments,” she said. “However, you must also genuinely care so that students can open up to you if they are going through a hard time. There is a lot more to teaching than just what goes on in the classroom.”
Motivating students is an important part of the learning process. “I am very much a motivational quote person,” stated LaCount. “I post quotes on my board in my classroom regularly, and I love when a student comments on one that I’ve chosen. Two of my favorite quotes are, ‘What would you do if you knew you would not fail?’ and ‘The more grateful you are for what you have, the more of what you don’t have will show up.’ These quotes inspire me to challenge myself to think outside the box and not be afraid of the fear of failing, and to always be grateful for what you have. Many people would love to have what you often take for granted,” she added.
LaCount acknowledges her parents, Howard and Sue Gilbert, as her role models in life. Her dad was born and raised on Sand Mountain, never went to college, but always got up every day and worked hard for his family. “He instilled a tremendous work ethic in me and my sisters. My mom earned her GED and always worked as well, in addition to playing a key role in our development of social skills and strong work ethic as well,” she said.
LaCount considers her most coveted accomplishments as “Hands down, raising two smart and beautiful daughters as a single parent, and being blessed that they turned out to be respectful and successful young women. That is my greatest accomplishment. I am thankful to have professional accomplishments as well, but my girls are my biggest by far.”
When asked if she were to write a book about her experiences as an instructor, what she would entitle it, she said, “It would probably be something like, Never Give Up. After earning my bachelor’s and master’s degree, it was still many years before I was able to actually teach, which was the reason I set out to earn those degrees. It didn’t make sense to me a lot of the time as to why certain promotions or job changes didn’t work out. Looking back, it is crystal clear, and it is totally in God’s timing, not mine. Whatever goals you set may not come to pass when you think they should, but they’ll come at the right time and in the right place. You just have to do your part and never give up.”
Commenting on the business/office administration atmosphere of today, LaCount offered that the business office world is ever-changing. While technology and computer operation is important, there are still many soft skills that administrative assistants need, and that are sought after by employers, that may not be as easy to find as they were in the past. Customer service, problem-solving, and effective communications are some of those skills. She added, “It is my hope that in addition to those skills, any graduate from the Northeast Office Administration program will be able to show professionalism, organization, and critical thinking skills on day one of their new job, as well as have the technical background they need to fit their employer’s needs.”
A degree in office administration at NACC prepares students for a variety of jobs in an office setting. Skills learned include communications, accounting, computer applications, transcription, records and information management, and office procedures. Students may pursue a degree as a generalist, or specialize in medical office or paralegal fields. There is an expected 15% increase in the number of secretarial positions in the US through 2022 according to America’s CareerInfoNet 2015. Earnings vary based on experience, education and location.
LaCount added, “I just want to take this opportunity to say how thankful I am to work at Northeast. Dr. David Campbell (NACC President) is dedicated to the students and residents of our service area, and shows that by investing resources wisely and where they can best serve students.” The Office Administration lab received a huge upgrade in the early part of 2016 and is a top-notch learning environment. For anyone reading this who thinks they might be interested in training to work in an office environment, LaCount would love the opportunity to speak about class options, both in class and online, financial aid, scholarship opportunities, and more. She said, “I was a first generation college student and knew nothing of how to get started, and someone helped me. I want to be that person who helps someone else with questions about attending college. Please contact me at 256.638.4418 x2269 or firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Registration for the Spring Semester is going on now. Regular registration is Wednesday, January 4. Classes begin on Thursday, January 5. Registration continues through Monday, January 9.
For additional college information, go to www.nacc.edu or download our free App.