When Jim Nowak was a student at Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC) he played on the basketball team. All players were required to spend time in the academic support center. While doing his homework at the center he took notice of the resources and assistance offered to students. He didn’t know he would be back someday to be one of the individuals providing those services.
After receiving a marketing degree from WCTC in 1997, Nowak went on to become a middle school teacher in the Milwaukee Public Schools, which he did for 10 years. He also earned an administrative credential and substituted as principal when needed.
Two years ago, Nowak found himself back at WCTC, as he became an academic support instructor in the academic support center, now called The Learning Center. He provides supplemental instruction to students with disabilities, English language learners, and students considered "at risk."
For Nowak, seeing students succeed is the most enjoyable part of his job. He also likes working with students one-on-one or in small groups on a variety of subjects.
"I truly enjoy watching the transformation of each student of when they first enter the lab to when finish or receive their degree," Nowak said. "The work is not remedial," he added. "We do not do their work for them."
He describes his job as "counselor, instructor and sometimes Dad."
Nowak creates study guides and learning aids to help students master their course material. He enjoys the collaboration with classroom instructors and students. "For our lab to be successful, we could not do it without the feedback and materials of the classroom instructors," Nowak said.
Each school year, the learning lab serves approximately 2,200 students and provides supplemental instruction for over 200 courses. The average grade for the students who use The Learning Place is a "B".
"My job is very satisfying, rewarding, and impacting the lives of students I come in contact with on a daily basis is very important," Nowak said. "Seeing growth in the students’ academic pursuit, as well as social development, is fulfilling for me as an instructor. Receiving positive notes and emails from students who thank you for what you have done for them is very rewarding."