Faculty Spotlight: Q&A with Bob Ebben
Learning is a two-way street for Communication Skills instructor
Students often ask Bob Ebben what he would do if he was not a teacher. He admits he does not have a good reply other than to say he is doing exactly what he has wanted to do since he was seven years old: teaching.
As a 1999 graduate of St. Norbert College (SNC), Bob began his career as an English teacher at Neenah High School. While teaching, Bob earned a Master of Science in Education from SNC and eventually joined FVTC on an adjunct basis. He became full-time faculty in 2010 where he is a Communication Skills instructor and the president of the FVTC Faculty Association.
What classes do you teach?
While I have taught several courses in the Communication Skills department, I primarily teach English Composition I and Oral/Interpersonal Communication. In Fall 2023, I will also teach the Introduction to Literature course that is a part of our new Associate of Arts and Associate of Science programs. Along with these classes, I serve as lead for the Write Way, which is the writing center housed within the Teaching and Learning Center. Finally, I advocate for the best interests of students and instructors in my role as president of the FVTC Faculty Association.
Why did you go into teaching?
Throughout my entire educational journey, I had teachers and professors who supported and pushed me to be the best version of myself. School was always a safe and nurturing place for me and the classroom was one of the few places I excelled. I wanted to be a part of creating that kind of environment for others.
What do you enjoy most about the classes you teach?
I learn so much about the students. Through the essays they write, the speeches they give and the small and large-group discussions they have, the students reveal their personalities, their goals and aspirations, and even their fears and anxieties. Developing the soft skills needed in today’s workplace requires a level of vulnerability because it demands that we be honest with ourselves. I appreciate when students take that journey and commit to developing parts of themselves that they know need some work.
How do you explain the importance of communication skills in the workplace?
The courses I teach dovetail nicely with the college’s Employability Essentials, which are the skills and behaviors we know our employers want from our students in the workplace. Whenever they face a challenging situation, I remind them that they have an opportunity to practice what they’ve learned on how to adapt and communicate effectively and respectfully. I try to connect Employability Essentials to activities we do or conversations we have whenever they are applicable.
What is the most helpful advice you have received from someone?
When I was a student teacher at Wrightstown Middle School, I delivered a lesson that was a dismal failure. Once the students left the room, my cooperating teacher, Di Driessen, sensed I was frustrated. As we discussed what went wrong, she looked me square in the eyes and said, “Bob, if you don’t tell them what you expect, you won’t get it.” I have carried those words with me for my entire career. Whenever a lesson or assignment does not result in what I had in mind, I first ask myself, “Did you tell them what you expected?”
What is one piece of advice you have for students?
In my experience, students who learn to use college resources, advocate for themselves and become active members of the college community have the richest and most powerful experiences here at FVTC. Being engaged academically and socially is the key to success at the post-secondary level and students who connect with one another as well as with their instructors, advisors, etc. will gain the most from their time here.
If you were not instructing students at FVTC, what would you be doing?
My students ask me this all the time and I do not have a good answer since I have wanted to be a teacher since I was seven or eight years old. What I teach might change, though; I have always thought working with future teachers as they prepare to enter their own classrooms or supporting teachers in a leadership role would be an effective use of my talents.
University Transfer Degree
Want to learn more about the associate degree programs Bob mentions?
The University Transfer degree allows students to earn an Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degree from FVTC and then transfer with junior standing to several four-year partnership schools. The programs are financial aid eligible and meet all requirements for general education courses at schools such as UW Oshkosh, UW-Green Bay and Lakeland University.