Do you dream of becoming a teacher?

Do you dream of becoming a teacher?

The job outlook is great for teaching. Get started at Southwestern like Brookings mom, Cara Dailey.

Cara Dailey has worked in and around schools her entire adult life. As a bus driver, a teaching aide, in the library, in the cafeteria, and as an Aspire coach mentoring students at a local high school. All the while, homeschooling four kids and always working part- or full-time left Cara little opportunity for her own education.

“I always wanted to do more,” Cara said.

After years of working in various jobs at schools, she realized she is good at teaching children.

The right time to move ahead

Living in Brookings with grown children, Cara decided the time was right for her to achieve her dream of becoming an elementary school teacher.
She connected with an advisor at the Curry campus in Brookings. SWOCC’s online degree program partnership with Southern Oregon University made it easy for Cara to enroll in the Elementary Education degree pathway. With a mix of online and in-person classes, it is a perfect fit for what Cara wanted to do.

She loves the Curry campus and the helpful staff, and did pay a visit to the Coos campus to meet a few of her other professors.

“I met math professor Sean Hutcherson who was so good for me, being someone who hadn’t had a math class for a long time!” Cara said.

Instructor Mary Fields, who teaches music and art for aspiring elementary teachers, talked with Cara a lot about the future of education.

“I really saw how the professors work as a team. They were in close contact with each other and helped me navigate the program. Maidie Rosengarden was my encourager!”

Family studying together

Cara’s daughter Charlotte was a SWOCC student too, and they attended together in 2019. Charlotte graduated with four degrees from Southwestern. She is now working on her bachelor’s degree with the goal of working in publishing.

“We are SWOCC Believers!” That is what the Dailey family says.
Like her husband Darrin, who teaches dual credit math at Brookings-Harbor High School, Cara plans to become a teaching professional in a Curry County school – maybe this fall. Come April, Cara will be ready to graduate with her Associate of Science degree in Elementary Education.


Are you passionate about making a difference in the lives of children?

Could this be your story? There is a wide variety of careers in education – from caring for babies to teaching high school. We need great teachers in Southern Oregon. We need you! This is an exciting time in education with a lot of opportunities to make a difference. Call us today so we can help you move forward on the path to a career in education.

541-888-1575 | maidie.rosengarden@socc.edu

Check out our new website to learn more about a career in education www.education.socc.edu.

Already have an associate’s degree? Ready to get your bachelor’s degree in Education? Contact Jaimee Belzer in the University Center for help, 541-888-1518 | jaimee.belzer@socc.edu.


On a journey of inspiration

On a journey of inspiration

Yesterday’s drop-out. Today’s teacher

When Lou Rushton hiked into Coos Bay looking for a bus to take south, the 50-state traveler had never heard of this town nor any little towns on the Oregon Coast. He figured Coos Bay was just another step in a long journey. In reality? It was 2002 and Rushton had “crash landed” at Southwestern Oregon Community College.

“I was curious, terrified by the thought of college, but curious about why people enjoyed it,” he said.

Rushton’s experience at Southwestern helped him re-frame his life. It launched him on a learning journey that took him to the East Coast, the Gulf Coast and back again. Two years ago, Rushton landed again at Southwestern, this time gracefully as an assistant math professor.

“This is the magic. It’s the small places. It’s the weird un-thought of places that are transforming people,” Rushton said.

Searching for a way out

High school was never a fit for Rushton. He dropped out at 16 in Cleveland, Ohio, and got a warehouse job. He quickly learned unskilled work was not a path to a good future, so he enrolled in an alternative adult high school degree program by phone, before online education took hold.

Restless, he started traveling. It was in Coos Bay he discovered his love of learning. Rushton needed a chance to dry out from his cold, wet travels. He found a place to stay and got a pizza-making job. Soon, his new circle of friends connected him to the college. His first advisor, Southwestern’s music director, told him to take a science class.

“I remember going home and literally looking them up. We didn’t have Internet yet. I literally got out the dictionary, thinking ‘what are these options?’” he said.

Having the experience I had here transformed my life. – Math teacher Lou Rushton, 2006 Southwestern grad

Geology, physics, chemistry, biology? He picked geology to learn about Earth. Within three weeks, instructor Dr. Ron Metzger noticed Rushton’s work ethic and suggested he become president of the Geology Club.

“I remember thinking, you’ve got the wrong guy,” Rushton said.

Metzger had the right guy.

Learning to teach

“Lou did what students are supposed to do. You show up. You work hard. You ask questions. You show initiative,” Metzger said.

Rushton moved into student housing and became a resident assistant. He participated in activities and tutored. He became Southwestern’s outstanding student that year.

“Some people golf. Some people enjoy bowling. I just enjoyed being in classes, being in an academic environment,” he said.

Archive photo of geology instructor Ron Metzger and student Lou Rushton
Geology professor and mentor Dr. Ron Metzger stands with former student Lou Rushton in this archive photo circa 2005. Today, they are good friends and teach together.

People told Rushton to teach. After graduating with an Oregon Transfer Degree in 2006, he moved to the University of Oregon and got his bachelor’s degree. He detoured east to St. John’s University in New York, took a teaching fellowship and worked in a Brooklyn high school. He earned a master’s degree in civil engineering, and another master’s and then another. He taught at a community college in Ohio, and figured out he loved teaching.

“He’s a great math teacher,” Metzger said. “He still has the same enthusiasm and gung-ho attitude.”

Nearly 20 years after they met, Rushton and Metzger are equals, and good friends. Now, Rushton is the one inspiring students. 

Creating community

Rushton’s office is next door to the tutoring lab. It is common any day to walk in and see this middle-aged man in jeans sitting beside a student working through math problems. He also tells his story, helping students think beyond today to imagine possibilities.

“I thought my career path wouldn’t have anything to do with math,” said Kaitlyn Heitman, a student in his Math 98 class. “But honestly, Lou is making me rethink that. If I challenge myself a little bit more, I could go into any field I want to.”

Hearing a student say that, has to make a teacher smile.

“Having the experience I had here transformed my life,” Rushton said. “To be a part of that with other future students is just too cool.”


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