John Whipple scales Telluride's Via Ferrata earlier this year. Whipple, who will be the Outdoor Leadership Program coordinator at Colorado Northwestern Community College's Rangely campus, is one of several new staff members starting at CNCC this fall.

Courtesy photo/

John Whipple scales Telluride's Via Ferrata earlier this year. Whipple, who will be the Outdoor Leadership Program coordinator at Colorado Northwestern Community College's Rangely campus, is one of several new staff members starting at CNCC this fall.

CNCC adds energetic staff

The best way to ensure students are excited to learn is to employ those who are excited to teach. And a lack of enthusiasm certainly won’t be a problem for the Craig and Rangely campuses of Colorado Northwestern Community College.

Although CNCC has yet to finalize its faculty for the coming school year, numerous slots in Craig and Rangely have been filled. Among the newly added educators are Donna Theimer and Liz Johnson on the Craig campus and John Whipple in Rangely. Theimer recently was hired as the college’s new dean of instruction, Johnson joins the science faculty and Whipple will take on the mantle of Outdoor Leadership Program coordinator.

The three expressed a passion for the area that they think will have a profound impact on their jobs.

Theimer, who started two weeks ago, has lived in Craig for about a year, following her husband’s move to work with the IT department at The Memorial Hospital. She previously worked in the business department at Trinidad State Junior College.

She oversees faculty, concurrent enrollment with high school students in the region and the virtual classroom program, which lets students participate in classes online.

“We do early childhood and banking and finance through that,” she said. “It’s really big because we reach out to a lot of people with that. We’re always looking for more delivery modes since we’re in a small community.”

Theimer’s goals are to increase overall enrollment, improving academic programs across the board, and continue to establish CNCC as a “community base.”

“It’s a place where people can come for solutions or to work out problems,” she said. “We are the college of the area, so we want to utilize that and bring people in.”

Also, she hopes to strengthen ties with the mining and hospital industries.

“We really want to reach out to them and find out how we can meet their needs,” she said. “In meeting their needs, we’re helping put people to work. We’re helping both people who want to go to a four-year (college) and those who need the vocational training.”

Creating a greater sense of unity is a similar aim of Johnson’s. Her experience lies in teaching a variety of sciences, a method she plans to bring to CNCC students to enhance interdisciplinary learning.

“I really enjoy teaching many different subjects at the same time,” she said. “It keeps me really enthused about teaching in general, and students can have me for one class, have me for another class and it gives them an understanding of how all the sciences interconnect with one another.”

Johnson received a bachelor’s degree in earth sciences from Montana State University and a master’s in molecular paleontology from North Carolina State University. She recently has taught within the community college system of Denver.

“I’ll be teaching the chemistry courses, as well as some anatomy, physiology and nutrition in the fall,” she said. “With the chemistry classes, we can do some explosions because I’m a little bit of a pyrotechnic at heart, and I really enjoy doing those kinds of things in the classrooms.”

Johnson said moving to a small town like Craig appealed to her, as well as the layout of Northwest Colorado.

“I love the outdoors a lot. I like hiking, backpacking and there’s a lot of fun places to go and explore in the weeks and months to come,” she said.

The region also was a draw for Whipple, whose position with the Outdoor Leadership Program in Rangely will bring him in touch with nature. Originally from Ohio, he loves the Colorado landscape.

“It’s pretty much any outdoors leader’s dream job,” he said.

Right now his purview includes a class with the LeaderTrek learning community, supervision of the campus’s challenge course and facilitating outdoor trips, but Whipple said he wants to build a strong program that could potentially allow him to focus on courses in a multitude of outdoor activities in the future like ice-climbing, spelunking, scuba diving and more.

A graduate of Bowling Green State University and Canada’s Columbia Bible College, he has grown used to all kinds of terrain, recently while climbing in the hills of Telluride. One element of nature sticks out for him personally more than any other.

“My background’s in aquatics,” he said. “The river just speaks to me.”

Whipple said he hopes to work with Rangely and Craig students alike.

“I’m a collaborator,” he said. “I love to work with other people and learn from them, and part of working with the challenge course is not only making the Rangely campus more cohesive and having them become a stronger team but also the Craig campus become a stronger team and working together and both of them understanding what the other is doing and becoming a stronger college as a whole.”

Andy Bockelman can be reached at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@craigdailypress.com.

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