Washtenaw Community College Faculty member Bill Reichert, who teaches computer networking and systems technologies, is well-known among students. They really like him and aren’t bashful about saying so.
WCC President Rose B. Bellanca found that out at one of the recent luncheons she hosts for students.
What’s his recipe for success?
“Knowing your material really well and presenting it with enthusiasm; accommodating students while getting to know them personally; and staying current are all things that have worked for me,” he said.
Reichert, a graduate of Purdue University, who majored in mechanical engineering, is all for changing with the times, including conducting on-line classes, which can better work around student jobs, family obligations, etc., but he’s quick to acknowledge that he prefers the face-to-face interaction with his students.
“It’s challenging to try and build a relationship with students through an online course when you hardly see them, if ever,” he said. “There’s nothing like the instant gratification I get when seeing a light bulb go off in someone’s head during a lecture or when a student tells me how much they enjoyed a lab after class.”
Although Reichert’s dedication to help students succeed is relentless – he writes each 30-to-50-page lab from scratch, his passion for teaching came a little later in life.
Prior to joining WCC, Reichert worked as a senior facility engineer at General Motors (GM) for more than 30 years. After first retiring in 1995, he became interested in computers and started taking courses at WCC, earning several associate degrees and certificates in the process.
When Reichert retired from GM for a second time in 1999, WCC seized the opportunity and offered Reichert a part-time teaching position the following year, which he gladly accepted. Less than a year later, he came on board fulltime.
“Making the transition from working 12-hour days seven days a week (at General Motors) to teaching, where your schedule is somewhat less grueling time-wise, takes some getting used to, but I love working at WCC,” Reichert said. “Everyone here is very supportive from the folks in IT to the deans and department chairs to (WCC President) Dr. (Rose B.) Bellanca. It’s a great feeling to be recognized by your peers and praised by your students.”
As for Reichert’s teaching style? He takes a hands-on approach. “While certification tests are certainly important, I feel it’s more beneficial to teach the actual skills they’re going to use in the real world so they’re job ready,” he said.
He even takes the time to incorporate students’ suggestions into his labs, lectures and lesson plans.
At 73, it may be surprising to learn that Reichert doesn’t plan to retire soon. “I feel I have a responsibility to give back by sharing what I’ve learned with students, so they can go on to land great jobs,” he said. “I’ve had students come back years later and share their success with me. As an educator, there’s no greater satisfaction.”
This story originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of On the Record.