Written by Jason Klingerman and published May 5, 2014.
This article originally appeared in The Telescope, Palomar College’s award-winning, student-run newspaper.
There is a curious little spot in Parking Lot 12 where a steel post harbors an aluminum sign that reads “this space reserved for Distinguished Faculty of the Year.”
Each year the winners, one full time and one part time, choose a spot on campus they would like to park and it becomes theirs for an entire year. When Adjunct Professor Michelle Vogel Trautt learned she was the 2014 recipient of the esteemed title, she said she did the following:
“The young child inside of me did the happy dance in (my) public parking spot. That was an interesting moment for me because I don’t normally do that in public,” she said.
Playful as it may be, this spirited act illustrates some of the qualities that students find so appealing about her. “Her perseverance during and outside of lecture hours and endless energy in class is what makes her the perfect candidate for (this award),” said Jessica Holden, a student in Vogel Trautt’s 4:30 p.m. Behavioral Statistics class.
And it’s a perseverance shared across many campuses (she currently teaches two courses at Cal State San Marcos, two at Palomar, and one at Mira Costa) and many organizations (She advises two academic societies at CSUSM and sits on two committees at Palomar), making her one of the busiest worker bees in the business.
“Working hard leads to working smarter,” Vogel Trautt said.
That is a mentality she carries into her classroom as well. Her classes can be challenging for students, since she directs them similar to the way she directs her own life, that is, with purpose and grit and a bit of fun.
But when students reach out to her she does whatever it takes to help them succeed. When Holden struggled with a topic, Vogel Trautt spent four days brooding over how she could adjust and alter her teaching process to help Holden understand.
When they met next, a light bulb went on for Holden. She was so impressed she persuaded Vogel Trautt to explain this new approach to the class. “I piloted, so to speak, that explanation with (the) class, and they were like ‘oh man, I wish you would have said this like two weeks ago!’” Vogel Trautt said.
Vogel Trautt not only uplifts her students (through her own determination and dexterity as an educator), she inspires them with her humor and creativity, or what she calls “edutainment.”
“I can’t think of a time the class hasn’t left lecture without laughing from Professor Trautt,” said Holden, adding that the class roared during one lecture when their teacher started head banging to metal music.
Whether it’s hypothetically surveying vampires to find out what blood type they prefer or singing Christmas carols for students who make it to the end of the course, she makes sure the learning environment is fun and engaging.
“She can take a subject that you hate and make it something bearable,” said Sarah Zabihi, a Criminal Justice student.
Vogel Trautt said when the students get lost in the humor the numbers don’t seem as intimidating, making it easier to understand.
“Half the time I’m just a load of ridiculousness,” she confessed, “but it’s enough to get them to learn.”
Vogel Trautt get’s her well-deserved parking spot in the summer.