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Kara Croucher and Jim Van Brundt

Teaching transforms lives

Midge Shaw, now celebrating her 20th year teaching at RCC, is the lead instructor at RWC Tutoring Center.

“The thing I love best about teaching is seeing lives transformed through achieving success. It is an addicting concept that gets me up, excited about each day. I enjoy the progress and process of changed lives.”

Before joining RCC, she taught at Merlin Elementary School where she worked with principal Midge Renton, a founder of RCC. Shaw also started, taught at, and administered Vineyard Christian School for 12 years. She has a bachelor’s degree in education from Western Oregon University earned a master’s in education from Southern Oregon University.

Rafael LozanoLandscape program launches new career for Rafael Lozano

Rafael Lozano earned a Landscape Technician certificate at Rogue Community College, learning skills that will allow him to combine his love of art and gardening to start his own business.

“I want to depend on myself for an income and not the whims of a corporation,” said Lozano, who graduated in June. He has been attending RCC since 2009 after being laid off by a local manufacturing plant. A $500 RCC Foundation scholarship, funded by the Grants Pass Garden Club, is helping Lozano reach his goals — and he’s grateful.

“I went to their meeting to thank them,” said Lozano, who propagated plants to give the garden club. Originally from Mexico, where he studied architecture and graphic design and worked as a commercial designer, Lozano was visiting family in California n 1982 when he met his future wife, Julie Stevens, a native of Grants Pass.

Lozano got a job in the restaurant industry, worked his way up from bus boy to maître d’, and then was hired to manage a large conference center in Santa Cruz.

“I was making very good money, but we were never able to buy a house because prices were incredible,” he said. “And I worked 12-16 hours a day.” While visiting in-laws in Grants Pass, Lozano discovered affordable housing, lovely rural settings, and a chance for more family time. The family moved to southern Oregon, where the couple worked at a variety of jobs until they were both laid off in 2008. With NAFTA funding available for training, Lozano opted for the RCC Landscape Technician program.

“I needed something with opportunities,” he said. “I just needed to find the right door.” Lozano’s career research indicated landscaping had good potential, especially with growing numbers of retirees. “I’m looking for opportunities to have our own business — keep it simple without big startup costs — where I can use what I have in my head.”

While he’s enjoyed a variety of courses at RCC, a writing class taught by Academic Skills instructor Midge Shaw helped him build his English skills.

“Midge gave me the tools to understand much better the language and meanings,” he said. “Life is more enjoyable when you’re understanding and know what you want to say and what others are saying.”

RCC’s landscape instructors also have prepared him well, according to Lozano.

“They are good at providing tools and information, sharing experience and knowledge, and taking time to make sure everyone knows and understands the material.”

Computer classes also have been important. When he first started at RCC, Lozano didn’t know how to turn on a computer, but he’s since taken several computer classes and presented his final landscaping project using PowerPoint.

A Cooperative Work Experience class on the RCC Redwood Campus with landscaper Michael Raines also gave Lozano a chance to learn something new everyday.

“Michael approaches projects as a designer — with really good concepts.” 

Lozano, who earned a 3.74 GPA, graduated June 11 and is preparing for state license exams. He’s also figuring out what the next stage in his life will be.

“RCC has really been an adventure,” noted Lozano, smiling. “Life is a challenge, every step.”

Have a story idea for the website? Please E-mail Rand Hill