BY Natalie Clark Postles
Katie Zanto, mother, wife and the chair of Interdisciplinary Studies at Sierra Nevada College joined the faculty in the winter of 2004, and is currently at the end of her 10th year here at SNC. Zanto, while currently the chair of Interdisciplinary Studies, was originally hired to teach a few freshman English composition classes.
According to Zanto, as each semester progresses more opportunities open up for her at the school. Before she taught at SNC she taught English at multiple schools, including both middle and high schools. Zanto also worked as a guide and outdoor facilitator through Outward Bound for more than 10 years.
“You literally watch the students change from no confidence, not knowing how to make a decision and awkward, to so ready and confident to apply their new selves to the world.” Zanto says referring to time working with Outward Bound. Zanto says teaching in an academic setting was not her initial intention. While working for Outward Bound she initially saw herself as a guide or an outdoor facilitator and not a teacher, but it was her time working there that made her into one.
Zanto reflects that her real passion was to “integrate the power of outdoor education with literacy instruction”. She wanted to integrate the teaching of reading, writing and speaking with second language learners that were struggling with the power of outdoor education.
To do so, she went back to graduate school at Stanford, researched her interest of starting a nonprofit directed towards teaching underserved youth by integrating in-class education and the outdoors, and found out if anyone was facilitating the same sort of program.
Stacy Taylor is a popular professor with Sierra Nevada College students because of her unique way of teaching economics. She thinks that the best way to teach is to give students the chance to problem solve and have a hands-on approach.
“The way Professor Taylor introduced economics into my college experience really showed me how interesting and exciting economics can be, ” Senior Austin Leal said.
For many students, Economics 101 and 102, or macro- and micro-economics, are the first stepping-stones towards a degree in economics, so it’s important for the professor to introduce the new undergraduates in a positive manner.
“I like being the first contact that students have with economics. I like to make it positive for them,” Taylor said. ”If you are having a great time students will probably come along with you.”
Taylor started teaching at SNC in the fall of 2012. Before then, she had a successful career in banking.“I loved banking and I was very successful at it. I used to start and run big businesses.” Taylor said.
During the financial crisis, she decided to make a change in her career. Taylor was working in the mortgage business, which began to show signs of collapse.
“I decided I didn’t want to be a part of that. I left and moved into my ski house here in Tahoe.” Taylor said.
The upstairs art studio has a unique, pungent smell today. The aroma of peppers and onions being pulverized overpowers the nostrils. In the back of the printmaking studio, Mary Kenny is whipping up a batch of chili. A few students work on projects, create artwork, and classes are in session. This place of organized chaos is home base for Kenny here at Sierra Nevada College, which might explain why she is cooking.
“This started with Laura Bennett, who started bringing fresh vegetables from her garden in Auburn. I looked at them and I just thought of chili. I make chili for finals sometimes,” Kenny said.
Kenny has been teaching art at SNC for 12 years. Her bubbly personality and laidback attitude make it easy for students to get along with her. Before her time at SNC, Kenny lived in Ohio for 22 years. She was born, raised and completed her undergraduate degree there. After graduation she moved to Eugene, Oregon for six months, but following a visit to Lake Tahoe, she returned to Eugene and immediately put in her two-week notice.
“I have kind of been here since. I was a nanny in Eugene but knew I wanted to get my masters degree. I started looking around for where I could do that in California. It is so expensive to live here. I tried to figure out how to afford to live in San Francisco and get my master’s at the same time, ” Kenny said.
That ended up being too large of a time commitment for Kenny. She attempted to work as a nanny while going to school in San Francisco, but she didn’t have enough time for studying and work. She ended up moving back to Ohio to complete her master’s degree.
“I basically lived in my studio. It didn’t really matter where I lived because I spent most of my time there,” Kenny said.
After graduate school, Kenny signed up for a summer printmaking workshop that was being held here at SNC. During the workshop, she learned that the printmaking teacher was retiring. That left a perfect opening for her and she became a permanent Tahoe resident.
“I have my master’s in printmaking. We have all this equipment here, the presses and everything else, I understand how to use it,” Kenny said. “My work has a lot to do with paper. I love paper. I love folding it.”
You enter and hear nothing but silence.In this dimly lit space, students gather and study. It’s a calming atmosphere of tranquility.Here and there among the library’s stacks, students grab books.
Often they’re greeted by SNC librarian Betts Markle. It’s a name that rings in everyone’s ear, from students to faculty members.
“I come from a long line of Elizabeths,” Markle said. “There has been Elizabeth, Beth, Betty, and Betsey. My parents didn’t want another Betsey, so they named me Betts.”
She never liked being called Betsey anyway as it was the name of an old childhood doll.
Markle has been working in libraries for more than 30 years. She is also a professor at SNC, teaching business and marketing classes this semester. She is also a writing instructor for graduate students, but she has never been interested in teaching English. “I don’t like teaching literature too much, but I could,” said Markle.
Whether she is traveling from building to building at Sierra Nevada College or traveling overseas to Afghanistan or South Africa, Mary Lewellen makes a mark everywhere she goes. As an associate professor of International Studies, Lewellen uses her experience and knowledge to encourage students at SNC to make the world a better place.
It’s 7 a.m. at the top of Diamond Peak Ski Resort and the sun is up, but its warmth has not come. The thermometer reads zero degrees, and a 15 mph wind chill bites through Gortex jackets like an Arctic alligator.
The Sierra Nevada College alpine ski team is holding practice, and Assistant Athletic Director Jon Cherry is right there with them. Skiing has been a part of Cherry’s life since he was a kid.