Head of the class
As the workday winds to a close, most business professionals hop in their cars and head home for dinner, some family time and maybe a quick workout. But a few head for the classroom with lesson plans in hand to spend several hours teaching classes in such subjects as economics, graphic design and American government.
Several colleges and universities routinely enlist adjunct instructors to teach one or two classes each semester. Though it’s not their full-time career, their love for teaching is not unlike that of full-time professors.
“The reason that I do this is that I really admire all evening students, whether it’s people who have been working all day and are working to better themselves, or it’s the traditional students who have the wherewithal to go to an evening class,” said Dave Sanderson, president and CEO of Wesley Day Advertising. “It’s really a privilege for me to hang around with people who have that kind of dedication.”
Sanderson enrolled at the University of Northern Iowa with the intent of becoming an elementary school teacher, and later went to Iowa State University to study public relations. He earned a degree in sociology and went to work for Economy Forms Corp. before moving to Wesley Day.
Though he never earned a graduate degree, Sanderson offers his students an abundance of real-world knowledge gleaned from his years in the working world.
“They pretty much gave me credit for having a Ph.D. in life experiences,” he said.
Sanderson now does most of his teaching at Simpson College, though he has taught at other schools in Greater Des Moines. He teaches anywhere from four to eight hours a week on advertising, marketing and interpersonal skills for business.
“Every student likes to learn from real-world examples, and we’ve got those in spades,” he said. “And it makes me better at my job.”
Monica Dolezal earned a teaching degree from Iowa State University, but ended up completing a 30-year career with what is now Wells Fargo & Co. After retiring, she translated her 20 years of experience with small business loans into Bizstarts LLC, which encompasses seminars and consulting for people interested in starting a business.
But for years she has gone back to her educational roots, teaching classes through the American Institute of Banking and for other groups and seminars.
“It was a very good transition because a lot of the things that I learned as I was getting my teaching certificate I was really able to apply on the lending side,” Dolezal said. “I don’t think they were mutually exclusive. Teaching helped my banking and banking helped my teaching.”
She was asked to teach a class at Des Moines Area Community College as part of an entrepreneur program, which is now in its second year. The 15-week class is open to traditional students, as well as people who are interested in starting businesses and earning DMACC’s entrepreneurship certificate.
“That’s where my love lies, in the teaching end of it,” Dolezal said. “My actual life motto is to learn something every day and teach something every day, so I’m trying to do that. It really gives you satisfaction that you’re helping someone.”
Tom DeSio returned to Simpson College in Indianola, his alma mater, about 18 years ago to teach business law two days a week. At the time, he was less than three years out of law school and was “just trying to make a living.”
Like Sanderson and Dolezal, he had shown an interest in teaching earlier in life, having returned to Simpson to earn a teaching certificate.
“I was kind of a lost ship and didn’t know what to do,” DeSio said.
Now an assistant Polk County attorney, he teaches two-hour classes two days a week at Simpson’s West Des Moines campus. In 1998 and 2004 his students honored him with the Excellence in Adult Education Award. “This is the only place I’ll ever teach,” he said.
DeSio returns to teaching every year because of his students, though he particularly enjoys working with adult students who are raising families, keeping jobs and going to school. In those situations, he is better able to teach by using examples, because those students have more life experiences than traditional students.
“I don’t think what we do is a slipshod operation,” DeSio said. “There’s no difference between what the kids do on campus and what we do here.”
Simpson has also worked with him to make sure he can teach classes starting at about 5:30 p.m., leaving him time to spend with his wife and three children.
“I do miss basketball games and soccer games and baseball games,” he said. “But I couldn’t do this if my wife and children didn’t make the sacrifices they do to allow me to teach.”