Bill Lederman, professor of nursing at Glen Oaks Community College, is the 2020 recipient of the E. J. Shaheen Teaching Excellence award. Although usually presented at the college’s spring commencement, which is postponed until spring 2021, the college is honoring Lederman at this time.
The award was initiated in 1984 with a generous donation from Shaheen, one of the college’s original board members, a college professor, lawyer and business owner, who placed a high value on education.
Lederman’s students say he “makes learning interesting—and his love for teaching is quite evident. Teaching comes naturally for him and he is said to have a way of making difficult topics easier to comprehend.”
Nursing students say he “pushes them to strive to do the best they can while helping them become more confident in the nursing role.”
Lederman has been teaching at Glen Oaks for over 34 years. His peers and students alike say he exhibits a high level of professionalism in his work and an inspiring sense of compassion for helping others. This is the second time he has received this prestigious award.
Growing up in Mendon, Michigan, Lederman attended Colon High School in the early 70’s. His dream was to become a math teacher. During this time there was a glut of teachers, and his sister, who was a librarian, asked if he had ever thought about going into the healthcare field?
“My response was no,” said Lederman. “But I did recall that on a recent career assessment test, the results indicated that the healthcare field would be a good option for me. My sister also pointed out that there was a college right in my backyard—so I applied to Glen Oaks and was accepted and graduated as an LPN in 1975.”
“I really enjoyed the course work at GOCC and it wasn’t until later in my career that I realized what a truly amazing education I had received.”
And, from that point on he continued his education – receiving another degree every four years.
Lederman’s first job as an LPN was at Sturgis Hospital where he worked the day shift on the medical floor. He soon saw the potential of education and gained confidence that he too could become a registered nurse.
Feeling it necessary to give back to community, and as an option to the draft, Lederman served a year of voluntary service as a nurse in a program affiliated with Mennonite Voluntary Service.
“I received room and board and a $15 a month stipend,” said Lederman. “It was in the true spirit of volunteerism.”
While there, he met Janell, also a volunteer in the program who was from upstate New York. She is now his wife. “Janell had already finished her bachelor’s degree – that alone may have inspired me to further my education – to be at as smart as her,” Lederman joked.
He also got to know the nursing faculty there pretty well. “I remember telling Peggy, a phenomenal nursing instructor, that I wanted to come back and have her as a teacher after the program was over.
And he did just that – He came back home, got married and together, he and Janell went back to New Mexico and he obtained his Associate Degree in Nursing in 1979.
The Ledermans then moved back to Sturgis and Bill went back to work at Sturgis Hospital as a registered nurse in the emergency room and critical care units.
While there, he decided to continue his education. He enrolled at Indiana-Purdue University in Fort Wayne with a pretty crazy routine — classes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and work at the hospital full-time Thursdays through Mondays. This was his routine for 2 ½ years until he received his Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 1983.
“It wasn’t the most convenient way to get it done, and I usually discourage my students from doing it this way,” said Lederman, “but sometimes that’s the option that works out the best.”
Upon receiving his bachelor’s degree, he received a call from Thurston Woods Village asking if he would consider coming to work for them as the director of nursing.
“I enjoyed the leadership role at Thurston Woods and was able to make a number of positive changes for the organization. Current nursing students that work there, tell me those changes are still in place.”
Although he enjoyed the nursing home work, Lederman received a call from one of his former Glen Oaks nursing professors and director of nursing, June Delong, in the spring of 1986. “Of course, we knew each other, and perhaps she was following me in my career. She asked if I would be interested in teaching at Glen Oaks – and I was pretty much hired on the spot.”
“I started that summer and was soon teaching five classes: Nursing Role Transitions, Leadership, Ethics, Obstetrics and Pediatrics classes,” said Lederman. “In fact, I taught OB and PEDS for 18 years, which was rather unusual for a male teaching these courses.”
“There were no computers then – in fact I had never been on a computer, and the closest thing to a computer was my manual typewriter,” said Lederman. “When Apple came on board with computers, we used them in the labs, but the programs were very simplistic. We had one phone, no PowerPoint presentations, and we used a chalkboard. There were no video players – we still were using an overhead projector.”
There was a stipulation with the Glen Oaks job. Lederman now needed to obtain his master’s degree – so, he enrolled at Western Michigan University in the Educational Leadership program, where he received his Master’s in Education in 1987. Ultimately, he went on to receive his Master’s in Nursing from Goshen College in 1991 and became a certified nurse leader.
Lederman still teaches Math for Nursing today – so his dream of becoming a math teacher had really been fulfilled.
What advice does Lederman have for today’s students? “I tell them to hold true to honesty, compassion and kindness – it’s not about working because you have to – it’s about the caring and compassion for our clients.”
“Listen to your patients!” said Lederman, “We were taught that the clients were always right, and they are not always right – but they are always our clients – and that means treating them with respect. I tell my students to try to see things from a patient’s viewpoint in order to serve them best.”
“In my ethics class, I talk about value,” he said. “I personally believe if you are willing to put time, energy and money to achieve something, that is what you value. So I ask my students where they spend their time, their energy and their money? This prompts them to really think about value.”
Lederman once asked his students what it is that he valued. “And, instantly a student piped up and said ‘EDUCATION’,” said Lederman. “That made it for me – as they recognized my passion for education.”
When he’s not teaching, Lederman enjoys reading and you’ll often find him in the yard working on his landscaping projects. He also enjoys singing with the praise team at his church.