WATC is saying thank you to two educators within the College. Terry Smith, Department Chair for Manufacturing, Automotive and Design Technology and LeArta Watkins, Instructional & e-Learning Designer are both retiring after years of service. Their retirement reception will be held Friday, January 27th at NCAT.
In March of 1971, Terry was told by a friend there was an instructor position open for welding at WATC. He not only landed the job, but was also able to receive his bachelor’s degree from Pittsburg State and his M.S. in Adult Education while teaching. Through the years, Terry said his highest award achieved while working at WATC would be his self-satisfaction of knowing he gave 100% over the years. He said he will miss working with his fellow WATC employees in helping the students achieve their goals.
Terry’s favorite memory from his time with WATC is when he received a phone call from one of his former student’s regarding the great education she had received from WATC. Her education not only helped her in getting a job in her field of study, but also a job that had benefits like paid vacation. At the time of the call, she was at home drinking a cup of coffee, while getting paid. It was the first day of “paid” vacation she had ever received in her life.
After retiring, Terry plans to do contract welding and work at major Sporting Clay tournaments around the country. He is also wants to continue designing and making Southwest art pieces by using a combination of metal and antlers for his small business called Buffaloroad Originals.
LeArta Watkins became a part of the WATC family in June of 2008 when WATC acquired the Cowley County Community College Southside campus. She first started as an adjunct instructor for Cowley in 1991 and eventually made her way to become the Director of Distance Learning and continued to do so at WATC. She was also able to bring the College’s online program up from a handful of classes to the full schedule we now have available via online and hybrid classes.
LeArta states she will miss the relationships she has had with her colleagues and in helping the students. LeArta has received several awards during her life-long career within education. She received “Outstanding Young Educator” while teaching at Derby. During her years at Cowley, she was selected by the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) as Master Teacher. But she feels that her highest honor was being asked to give a commencement address for the alternative high school in Burden, KS.
One of LeArta’s favorite memories was when she was helping two students achieve their associate’s degree while they stationed in Iraq via online classes. One of the students brought her the American ﬂag that he had ﬂown over Camp Baghdad in her honor. When he got back to the United States, he saw his family on the first day and on his second day, he went to see her and brought her the ﬂag. It is currently displayed in LeArta’s home along with its certificate from the commander.
After retirement, LeArta will have more time to spend with her grandchildren. She loves to sew and quilt. One of her major projects includes archiving her antiques, most of which are from her family and writing the story that goes with each piece so her children will know the history of their family.
WATC is grateful for the contributions made by both LeArta and Terry and we appreciate the valuable service and dedication provided by these excellent instructors and administrators throughout the years.