HAZARD — Linda Blair has a love for seeing the transformation of her students. She enjoys seeing them develop into more confident individuals. The passion she has for teaching and reaching out to students is coming to a close with her retirement, after 25 years at Hazard Community and Technical College.
She has said that if she could take a picture of each student on the first day of class and the last day of class, and look at the two, the change would be remarkable. “They go from reticent and scared to confident and relaxed. They are proud of what they have learned and accomplished. So often students come to us somewhat hopeful but not truly expecting to do well. They often think they are too old or have been out of school too long, can’t use the technology, or always had trouble with school. Here, they learn they can succeed, their opinions and experiences are valued,” she said.
Mrs. Blair said the transformation occurs as a convergence of many factors and people. “I try to create a community in the classroom in which each person is an integral part of that community because, by some magic, we were all chosen to be together at this place and time. As I get to know my students, I realize that I find my heroes and heroines right here in the hallways of HCTC.”
Being in Mrs. Blair’s classes was very enjoyable for students. “My number one goal in each class was to welcome my students at their level of learning and take them as far as possible in the time we had together. I loved seeing the students’ proverbial light come on when they understood, comprehended, or realized. I also loved that my students inspired me. I loved that they trusted me enough to share their stories, experiences, and problems. I loved that they made me laugh … and sometimes cry.”
Students have the utmost respect and praise for Mrs. Blair. One student stated, “This is my first year as a college student and even with having several personal problems, Linda Blair is always here for me to make sure I do make it in the college world. Thank you!” Another wrote, “I want to say thank you for having faith in my ability to learn. You not only gave me instruction, but encouragement as I entered your class in fear that I was too old to learn, that maybe I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the younger students, that I couldn’t make the grades, but, at this point, I have total confidence I can succeed. Thank you.”
Mrs. Blair began as the instructor for the Older Workers Program in 1991, a grant program to help people 55 or older get back into the work force. “This was a wonderful job, which I enjoyed immensely, and it gave me the opportunity to meet the most inspiring people,” she said. In 1993, she became a full-time faculty member as an instructor in developmental English and reading.
During her time at HCTC, she was named to Who’s Who in America’s Colleges five times. She received the HCC Outstanding Faculty Award (1995-96); Faculty Award (1998); HCTC’s New Horizons Outstanding Faulty and Staff Excellence Award (2004); Phi Theta Kappa, Distinguished Advisor Award, 2005; Kentucky Association for Developmental Education, Outstanding Educator of 2009.
Mrs. Blair values her HCTC experience. “One day recently when most of the employees were gathered in one place, I looked around the room and thought about each person there and how he/she has affected my life. I wish I could tell each of them. Here I have found some of the best friends I have ever had, loyal, loving people who have taught me so much, and whose generous spirit has sustained me. I have looked forward to coming to work every day, truly, because of the people who work here.”
“I will be forever grateful to the college for giving me the opportunity to work here. I will cherish my friendships and will never forget my students who have taught me so much,” she said.
Mrs. Blair is thankful for her long and happy marriage to a wonderful man and the blessing of raising two wonderful sons, Bruce (and wife Carol Ann) and Brian (and wife Catherine), as well as four grandchildren — Bradley, Brian, Bailey, and Emiley.
Evelyn Wood is the Public Relations Director for HCTC.