A Promise Long Made, Soon to Be Fulfilled: Jim Melvin’s Story

Jim Melvin for onlineA Promise Long Made, Soon To Be Fulfilled

Who likes inspections? Not many people.

But Jim Melvin has reason to celebrate the day an inspector visited the postal facility where Jim worked in Kewanee, Illinois.

On that day, four years ago, Jim had been mulling over a question. After 32 years with the postal service, Jim knew he qualified for retirement, but then what would he do?

At 55, he was too young for a porch and a rocking chair.

The inspector’s own plans brought an “Ah-Ha” moment to Jim and settled his future.

“I’m finishing my degree,” the inspector said, “so that I can teach.”

That’s a cool idea, Jim thought. I’ll do that.

A Cherished Ambition at Last Resurrected

Coming out of high school many years earlier, Jim had wanted to become a teacher.  Circumstances intervened and Jim joined the military instead. After that, he took a job with the postal service.

“I had a family to support,” he says.

That earlier ambition still had a little life, though. In the 80’s, he earned his Associate’s degree through Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois, doing his classes at night.

With nothing affordable available locally, Jim would have had to leave his job and travel long distances from Galesburg, and he just couldn’t afford to do that at the time.

And of course, back then, almost nobody did online learning.

So Jim just put his education on hold and focused instead on his career and family.

Welcome to the Revolution (the digital one, that is)

Life has changed so much in 30 years, hasn’t it? In 1985, his location stopped Jim from further education.

Now, through online education, the entire country would come to him, right there in Galesburg.

Knowing that, once the inspector gave Jim the idea of becoming a teacher, he began investigating online programs. He decided he wanted a school that had both a good on-campus program and an excellent online program, so he began looking at state universities. That led him to UIS.

“The UIS program is very well respected throughout the educational community,” he says, “and UIS had a teacher education program I could do online.”

Jim says that UIS takes online learning very seriously because it’s a very important part of the education opportunities the University offers. He has never felt, as an online student, that he was any less of a student than traditional on-campus students, and.

His instructors at UIS have all been fantastic, and the support system is excellent, including his online coordinator for TEP, Karina Moore, and Kara McElwrath in Information Technology Services.

Laughing a little, Jim adds, “The University has been very good about making sure this old guy who has not been in education for a while understands what needs to be done.”

A Promise Kept—for himself, his advisor, his students

This fall, Jim will do his student teaching middle school history and geography at A-town Middle School in Avon, IL. A professor at Carl Sandburg has agreed to be his supervisor in Avon, but he’ll still take the required courses for student teaching online from UIS professors.

And then, after Jim graduates in December, he’ll start looking for a job.

Back in the 80’s, when he finished his first degree, his advisor begged Jim to continue his education. “You’ll make such a great teacher,” Jim remembers him saying.

Jim shook his head sadly, but he did promise that if things worked out, at some point he would finish.

“I’m almost there,” he says, smiling.