In marathon running and in life, preparation is key. English Unit Adjunct Faculty member Susan Zelms helps Elgin Community College students during the degree completion “race,” giving them a leg up in life—and cheering them on as they cross the finish line to walk across the stage during commencement.
What’s the ultimate runner’s high for Zelms? Helping students see their potential and chase their dreams. In the classroom, Zelms acts as a coach and meets her students on a personal level to show them how learning the concepts will get them closer to reaching their goals.
“The first class that I ever taught at ECC was an English as a Second Language (ESL) reading class in 1993,” she said. “The students came from many different countries, and they had dreams, goals, struggles and hurdles to jump over.”
“Now, I teach composition classes, and while I have different students in my classes, it is still a similar scenario; everyone is going through their own journey—running their own race. Every time I walk into a new classroom, I remember those days and I [continue to] make my students’ success a priority.”
Zelms is an avid runner who has completed the Chicago Marathon three times. Next on her [bucket] list: to run the Disney Princess Half Marathon or Marathon in Orlando. (Editor’s note: Miller, Stredde and Zelms...we’re noticing a pattern of Disney-loving ECC employees. Institution-wide field trip, anyone?)
We caught up with Zelms to learn more about her life and her work at ECC. Here is what she had to say.
What is your greatest accomplishment since you’ve been here?
I was on the committee to create the Advanced Learning Placement (ALP) program that we have in the English Department. Researching the concept was a wonderful experience, and I learned so much. With the help of [retired] Dean Libby Roeger and Interim Dean Mary Perkins, the ALP program has been a huge success, so here’s my shout out to them.
What would you do if you were ECC president for a day?
If I were the ECC president for the day, I would give everyone a daffodil which represents rebirth, new beginnings and eternal life.
If there was a movie about your life, who would you want to play you?
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
My life is pretty uncomplicated. I enjoy spending time with my family and my four dogs, working out, reading and gardening. I am a huge thrift shopper, so I spend a lot of my time rescuing clothing and accessories from landfills one glorious piece at a time.
Where was the best place you’ve traveled to? Or, where would you like to visit?
The best place that I have traveled to was Huatulco, Mexico, before it became a tourist destination. It was so beautiful and untouched. I would love to see the Grand Canyon or visit New York City.
What’s one fact we should know about you?
I am left-handed? I’m Pisces?
What’s something about your job that others should know?
Like most adjuncts, I work at multiple institutions, so my job and how I perform it is a unique combination of what I have learned while working in different environments.
What was your favorite class in school?
English, of course, but political science was a close second.
What would be your “theme song?”
As a runner, I always think of as my theme song is “Running on Empty” by Jackson Browne.
What quote best describes your philosophy?
“It isn’t what we think or say that defines us, but what we do.” —Jane Austen
Complete this sentence: “I enjoy working at ECC because…”
I love my awesome students!