Coming full circle

By Misty Bouse

Alumni apply lessons learned at PCC in their community ed courses

They were once students, and now they are cornerstone faculty for Portland Community College’s (PCC’s) community education program. Today, Jolie Donohue, Rosie Romaine and Rod Smith teach a wide range of popular non-credit classes focused on health, landscaping and growing food.

The three instructors show how their community college journeys have come full circle.

Donohue is the learning garden coordinator for PCC’s Southeast and Cascade campuses and a community ed faculty. She is the author of “Gardening Goddess’ Guide to Edible Gardening in Portland,” which is based on her 13 years of teaching.

She made a midlife career change thanks to PCC after being laid off twice during a downturn in the economy. She would soon find PCC’s certificate program in therapeutic horticulture within the gerontology program.

“It was easy to get into and earn a certificate and then jump into paid work,” Donohue said. “My journey with PCC was life-changing. It’s such an important part of my story.”

Romaine, owner of landmark Cuban restaurant Pambiche, got into natural foods after experiencing an autoimmune illness. She embarked on a rigorous program of study with PCC’s functional nutrition program.

She now teaches the course “Spice Up Your Life,” an exploration of the health benefits of using fresh herbs and spices in everyday meals.

“We learned there is no one right way to eat – other than keeping your food whole,” she said. “It varies person to person based on many factors, but there is no one diet. So, I teach adapting recipes. Not everyone has to love kale.”

Since 1994, Smith has taught classes for beginning to intermediate gardeners on water use and irrigation, pruning and soil building, and many other landscaping topics. His most popular courses are “Fruits and Vegetables” and “Landscape Design.”

Smith has decades of professional nursery experience with a particular affinity for Japanese maple trees. He grew up on an Iowa farm where he worked in an orchard and has continuously been involved with the gardening or agriculture industries ever since.

“A while back, computers caught my eye,” Smith said. “I took several PCC computer programming classes – and then picked my shovel right back up. Once the gardening bug bites, people tend to stay with it.”

PCC’s community ed program offers hundreds of non-credit and continuing education classes each term and enrolls more than 25,000 non-credit students each year.

This article originally appeared here.

Misty Bouse

is a program specialist in the Office of Public Relations & Communications at Portland Community College in Portland, Oregon.