Learning at your service
When Pernevlon Ellis first began teaching sociology at Kishwaukee College, the classes were the standard lecture-discussion format that included papers, quizzes, tests, and a final exam. In 2013, he and his sociology faculty colleague at the time, Carrie Sims, decided to break the mold and do something different: Service Learning.
“What I have always enjoyed about teaching sociology is that it allows me to teach students how to apply the scientific method to studying and understanding group behavior,” he explained. “It also challenges students to take learning beyond the classroom. Service Learning was an effort to focus on applying theories and concepts to real life situations. Carrie and I discussed improving the curriculum in a way that would have a positive imprint on our campus community.”
Students in the initial program were required to volunteer in a local agency or organization and then write a reflection paper on their experiences, applying the sociological theories and concepts learned in class to their experiences. Since that first pilot program, Carrie has moved on and Kimberly Brostrom has joined the faculty. With Ellis leading the way, the two have expanded the Service Learning program to being included in all the sociology courses. The types of experiences that are acceptable projects for students has also evolved.
Ellis said, “It has grown to allow students the capacity to volunteer, create their own project, or create and share a unique public service announcement. Our students conduct their projects not just in the immediate community, but in other places as well.”
In the past year, students have fanned out to make an impact in a variety of ways in the community. Ellis noted, “Students have volunteered at food pantries, homeless shelters, the YMCA, churches, community centers, nursing homes, and schools. They have also raised money for a variety of causes. Students volunteered and collected donations for tornado victims in 2015. This semester, students raised money for Hope Haven and Safe Passage.”
Ellis, who holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in Sociology from Western Illinois University, has always believed, since he became a college instructor, that students need to be active in their learning. “My teaching philosophy is based on engaged learning, using the knowledge and skills developed in the classroom not in the distant future, but immediately whenever possible. This helps students meet the challenges they face as they develop the problem solving skills needed in our society,” he stated. “These students are enhancing the lives of others, as many classroom instructors aim to do at Kishwaukee College. The College mission is realized when students are positively impacting their communities.”
Pernevlon Ellis lives his own philosophy: he positively impacts the student community at Kishwaukee College every day.