Stephen Ryno, professor of communications at Glen Oaks Community College, had always thought about teaching at a college, but felt that he would need to enter the profession through teaching at the high school level and working his way into the collegiate scene. Upon graduation from WMU, he began to substitute teach at the high school level for the Gobles and Allegan school systems, and it became increasingly evident that he wanted a teaching career. He enrolled at Aquinas College where he obtained his Master’s in Education, along with his teaching certificate.
While continuing to substitute teacher, a faculty position, in reading, writing and math, opened up in 2006 at GOCC. The job matched Ryno’s credentials, (a double major in English and psychology with a minor in math) and by then he already had his M.Ed. and teaching certificate. Ryno jumped at the opportunity and that was the beginning of what is now his seven-year teaching career at Glen Oaks.
A young professor who will be celebrating his 36th birthday next month, Ryno has been selected as the 2012-13 E. J. Shaheen Chair Teaching Excellence Award recipient. The announcement of the 29th Shaheen Award was made by Dr. Gary Wheeler, GOCC president, during the 45th GOCC graduation ceremony on May 3.
“We have some very talented professors at Glen Oaks, Steve Ryno among them,” said Wheeler. “Besides being an inspiring professor, Steve is a role model for our students. It is professors like Steve who make Glen Oaks a great community college. The Shaheen award is presented annually to a member of the faculty who is nominated for innovation and quality instruction by students, alumni, fellow faculty, staff and members of the community,” added Wheeler.
With a bachelor’s in English from Western Michigan University, and a master’s in education from Aquinas, Ryno knew in order to move a step further into a professor role at GOCC, he would need to obtain his master’s in English. He didn’t waste any time and enrolled at WMU, receiving his master’s in English in 2009. He was about halfway through the program when he signed the full-time faculty contract at Glen Oaks – his title today.
Ryno refers to his teaching style as student-centered and interactive, as he strongly encourages student participation in classroom discussions. “The students have a voice in my classrooms,” said Ryno.
In particular, Ryno teaches a lot of first semester English classes where he has the opportunity to help students get comfortable with the college environment. “I try to offer a lot of positive reinforcement to provide students the confidence they need,” said Ryno. “They all begin at different levels, and I try to make them see the gains they have made as they push through the course.”
Ryno’s master’s thesis was on therapeutic writing in the classroom, and his students all write journals from week one. “Journaling is powerful,” said Ryno. “It (journaling) has been proven to improve health conditions and it gets at the root of issues students are having in their lives. It helps them work through these issues, and it is fun to watch them advance.”
Ryno attended community college after high school. “I never had a special preference for English,” said Ryno, “but I had two amazing professors in community college who were inspiring and influential in my decision to pursue English as a major.”
After being asked about the challenges of being a young professor, Ryno said that he not only works to make the traditional student feel at ease in the college environment, but he also has adult students who tell him he is young enough to be their son. “I have to put the adult students at ease as well, and I love seeing the 18- to 20-year olds interact with the 40- to 50-year olds. They really become teachers for each other.”
An avid hunter and outdoorsman, Ryno is from rural Gobles, Mich., where he continues to reside today in spite of the hour-long commute. In the fall, he tries to get outdoors before and after classes where he hunts Whitetail deer and coyotes. He keeps his father, who is a taxidermist, busy with preserving his treasures.
I enjoy the atmosphere, the student population, the people and the small-town feel of Glen Oaks,” said Ryno, who has 90 acres of property in Gobles, where he and his wife, Apiffany, who is in the Medical Assistant program at Glen Oaks, plan to build next year.
What’s next for Ryno? He would like to transition to be able to teach more math, so he is currently pursuing his master’s degree in math at WMU. But his math classes will be going on hold over the summer, as the couple is expecting their first child in July.