In the classroom and with her flip houses, Instructor of English Ginger Alms enjoys developing potential. Whether she’s helping students strengthen their writing skills or hand-crafting stained glass windows, Alms appreciates the creative process that leads to transformation—of lives and of old houses.
“I spend a lot of time reading essays,” said Alms when asked about her job in Elgin Community College’s English department. “But I feel privileged because my students share a lot of things with me in their writing that I wouldn’t otherwise learn about them. It gives me the opportunity to know them on a deeper level and understand their challenges and triumphs.”
When Alms isn’t reading students’ work, you can find her with a note pad, working alongside her husband on renovating an old home. They have renovated, decorated and sold several homes throughout their marriage.
“My husband and I like to think of ourselves as the original Chip and Joanna (of HGTV’s popular hit series Fixer Upper),” said Alms. “Of course, we were never offered a TV show…unfortunately.”
Though her hobby wasn’t captured on a DIY TV channel, it may one day be chronicled in a children’s book written by Alms herself and illustrated by her husband. They write children’s stories for her grandsons Weston and Everett, telling the stories of their family’s lives, and have completed four stories so far.
We caught up with Alms to learn more about her life and her work at ECC. Here is what she had to say.
In your words, what do you do at ECC?
I help students develop their own ideas and then put them on paper and make them interesting. In other words, I teach writing. I also teach International Literature and Film and Novel.
What is your greatest accomplishment since you’ve been here?
I feel the most successful when I see my students succeed, and I feel rewarded when they come back to take another class with me. I was recently recommended for tenure, which is a big milestone in my career.
What would you do if you were ECC president for a day?
I would set up couches and coffee bars around campus and give everyone a book, so they could get cozy, read and drink espresso drinks all day…or at least until 5 p.m. Then, we might switch it up to margaritas and movies.
If there was a movie about your life, who would you want to play you?
I have been told that I remind people of Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail because I am a bit quirky with a good heart.
Where was the best trip you’ve taken?
At the end of my first year of teaching at ECC, my father and I took a road trip across the country, through Canada, and to Alaska. He wanted to show me places that he and my mother had visited, and our plan was to see the Kodiak bears during the salmon run. Unfortunately, we timed it wrong, but we did see bears, up close, and we created some wild and funny memories. We spent a lot of time together in the car, and he spent most of it telling me stories about his life. I will always cherish the memories from this trip and will probably write about it, when I have enough distance to do that, since he passed away a few months after we returned home.
What’s one fact we should know about you?
Teaching is a second career for me. Previously, I was a crisis counselor for the psychiatric unit at Swedish American Hospital. I worked second shift on Fridays, and I was on-call most weekends, so I could homeschool my children during the week (and remodel homes, of course). When our daughter stared college, I went back to graduate school.
What quote best describes your philosophy?
I have several quotes that inspire me. In my home life, I like “Happiness is wanting what you have.” In my work life, I like the proverb “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Complete this sentence: “I enjoy working at ECC because…”
…I like the people and I feel supported.