March 16, 2012
Mike-Coste-blog

Faculty Feature: Quest for Learning Spans Many Subjects

I meet with faculty, students, and graduates quite a bit, and I like to share their stories. This is an occasional series.


It’s a special person who can master and teach several subjects and provide leadership in other areas of a college, and Mike Coste is such a person.

A Start in Politics.

Fresh from a Master of Arts in political science from the University of California-San Diego, Mike worked as the assistant director of the Colorado Dukakis for President Campaign. (Dukakis lost to George H.W. Bush in 1988.)

When working on a political campaign, you wear many hats. Mike managed the volunteer staff, participated in local strategy decisions and implementation, participated in debates and public events, assisted in advance work, and engaged in some media relations.

At an event, Mike met an FRCC professor who encouraged him to work at FRCC. Mike had teaching experience as an instructor at Colorado College. He taught, naturally enough, Introduction to American Politics.

Many Jobs at FRCC.

Since joining FRCC in 1989, Mike has been student life coordinator, instructor, faculty, acting dean of instruction, acting director of College Hill Library, department chair, and Faculty Senate president.

So Many Subjects, So Little Time.

Mike has taught political science, philosophy, developmental English, and humanities. He teaches in the classroom, and he was one of the first at FRCC to teach online. He also has taught for Regis University and Colorado Community College Online.

“I started teaching political science because my background was political philosophy,” he says. “Then I started teaching philosophy.”

So early in his career Mike was teaching Ethics, Logic, Introduction to Political Science, American Government, Leadership, and International Relations.

A Pioneer in Learning Communities.

Mike was an early entry in the “learning community” movement, now a common teaching method across the country. Students sign up for two classes that are taught in tandem. The students and the professors, then, are the “community.” In the early 1990s, Mike taught Ethics, and another professor taught Public Speaking. One can imagine the subjects of the speeches that considered the issues and critical-thinking skills developed in the Ethics part of the learning community.

Next came developmental English.

“I was teaching philosophy in a learning community, paired with developmental English,” he says. “That got me interested in developmental English. I teach it once a year as needed.”

Toss in some Humanities, too, and that completes the teaching fields of Mike Coste.

He has the academic background to teach in various fields:

Mike’s office reflects the diversity of his interests. On the wall are posters of the Beatles, a print of “The Garden of Earthly Delights” by Hieronymus Bosch, and a portrait of John Locke. On his desk is a booster button for Notre Dame football.

A Love of Learning.

“I teach because I love learning,” he says. “Teaching is the best way to learn. When I teach something different, I’m learning something new.”

On Teaching at a Community College.

“I love it. Community college students are trying to make their way in the world. I appreciate their effort. It’s exciting to work with community college students, to see them grow. I’m just the spectator.

“I like the educational values at FRCC. On the general-education side, we’re like a small liberal arts college. It’s accessible education.”

High Praise from Students and Colleagues.

  • “His class was one of the first classes where I felt I learned what I was taught and I did not just memorize it. He knew how to relate and connect to us.”
  • “He is very good at getting students engaged … amazing lectures … never boring … awesome PowerPoints.”
  • “We have (team-taught) a class together for five years, and I have become a better teacher each semester as a result of (what I learn) from him. … I have never seen him stagnant – each semester he tried out new ideas, both in the spirit of reflective pedagogy and in the spirit of invention and creativity.”

About the author:

John Feeley is director of public relations at Front Range Community College. He’s a retired soccer referee and newspaper editor whose subscription ran out.

Comments:

March 18, 2012 Nancy Noonan

I was so pleased to read this article, extolling the virtues of Mike Coste. As a former teaching colleague, I can attest to everything that Mr. Feeley said. For two semesters, Mike took my art history courses so that he could better teach his Humanities courses. Lifelong learning is his thing. The only component missing was Mike’s great and offbeat sense of humor–always a plus in the classroom!

April 04, 2012 Jack

He is the only reason I stayed in a class that I thought was tremendously difficult but due to his enthusiasm it proved easier than ever!