Teaching has been Tara Cole’s passion for as long as she can remember. “As a child, I would set up a ‘school room’ as soon as summer started and ‘taught’ my sister all summer long.”
Cole, a Communications instructor at OSU Institute of Technology received the 2019-2020 Regents Distinguished Teaching Award.
“I was very surprised to receive this award,” said Cole. “Some of the teachers I look up to the most at OSUIT have received it in the past, and I’m honored.”
She has been teaching for 12 years and said that after teaching her sister in the summertime, she tutored reading throughout high school and college and was a teaching assistant for several courses as a graduate student.
“I have always loved sharing what I’ve learned with others,” she said. “When I’m able to share that knowledge and it helps them reach their goals, that is a success for us both.”
Cole graduated from Freed-Hardeman University with her BA in English and earned an MA in Composition Rhetoric from the University of Central Oklahoma. She has taught writing in the classroom and online since 2008 at Southern Nazarene University, OSU Oklahoma City and now at OSUIT.
Cole said that teaching Communications at OSUIT is a unique experience since we are primarily a technical, hands-on institution.
“Many of my students are unaware of the importance of writing and communication to their future success,” she said. “As I teach, I emphasize not only what they need to learn but why they need to learn it. This situation challenges me to learn about their industries, so I can better prepare them.”
At OSUIT, Cole co-leads a monthly Online Learning Community (OLC) for faculty to share their ideas and find answers to their questions as they navigate the online learning environment. In 2019 she and former faculty member, Terry Hanzel, won a NISOD award for their work with the OLC.
“Online learning is where many courses are headed, especially in the communications field,” she said. “I want to help us be competitive in that environment for years to come.”
Cole also serves in the community through her work with The Demand Project and Downtown Bixby Church of Christ. With these groups, she leads volunteers to work on restoration projects and teaches classes.
In 2019, she published a book, Abide: 40 Ways to Focus on Jesus Daily, that included a cover design by one of OSUIT’s graphic design students.
Cole plans to continue her own education to learn more about student retention and to help students reach their goals.
“I work to build relationships with my students and help them keep their ‘why’ for coming to school in front of them,” said Cole. “When they walk across that stage or tell me they were accepted into their dream program, that makes all the hard work worth it.”