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Off the record

Business Professor Gerhardt wants his students to connect through talking stick

December 13, 2017

Professor and Business Department Coordinator Paul Gerhardt wants the students in his classes to see and appreciate the wisdom of Native Americans.

He is a creative professor who brings a Native American talking stick into his human relations class to recognize indigenous cultures, which are often ignored or overlooked.

He said before starting a class activity, in Native American culture, whoever is holding the stick will be able to talk, and others are to show respect and listen.

Gerhardt walked around the room with the talking stick, asked a question and one person at a time would answer. Whoever was to answer that question had to first repeat what has been said by the person before them and state their own answer.

This might seem like an unusual class activity, but it created an atmosphere where students began to make connections, talking out feelings to strangers and soon-to-be classmates and friends.

Gerhardt uses creative ways to connect with his class, showing his understanding that people have different personalities and learning styles.

“Meet people where they are at,” said Gerhardt.

He said he was a community college student himself, so he understands the challenges his students face. Gerhardt said he tries to be a resource for the success of his students and works hard in the classroom to make their educational experiences exciting and meaningful.

Curt Warmington, English professor at Pierce College, teaches in the classroom next to Gerhardt.

“I hear a lot of laughter and passionate dialogue coming from his classes. His classes have a lot of great energy and make great use of experiential learning,” Warmington said.

Gerhardt invites guest speakers to share inspiring message, such as Pierce alumni Greg Marks, to speak about hope and attitudes for success. Other repeat guests include Choi Halladay, vice president of Administrative Services, who spoke about ethics and Chancellor Michele Johnson, who shared the importance of teambuilding through stories of success at Pierce Community College.

His passion for student success is present every day. 

“I want to make sure that each of you has the tools and the information  to be successful,” Gerhardt said, encouraging his students at the end of class.

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