Psychologist Abraham Maslow is credited with saying “In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or step back into safety.” After ten years of working as a Customs Inspector, Tara Ramdin was already considering a career change when an interaction with a suspected drug smuggler helped encourage her to take a step forward.
“I was supposed to be interrogating a woman we believed to be carrying drugs and I was more interested in learning about the life experiences she’d had that lead her to be in that situation, and how I could support her.”
Realizing her true calling, Tara completed a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a master’s in Counselling Psychology. Thirteen years ago, she began sharing her knowledge as an instructor at College of the Rockies.
“I primarily teach in the Human Service Worker (HSW) program which is part of the Child, Youth, and Family Studies program, as well as in the psychology department. Since I started at the College, I’ve taught over 20 different courses.”
As someone who has changed career paths a few times in her life, Tara appreciates the numerous doors her psychology education has opened and is confident the same can be said for the curriculum she teaches her HSW students.
“Even if they don’t continue in the field, students are still able to apply the information they have learned to their own lives,” she said. “One of the courses I teach is Inclusive Interpersonal Communication. It is so exciting to have students practice the skills they learn in that course and realize significant changes in their relationships. I have had students tell me this course saved their marriages.”
A self-proclaimed closet stand-up comedian, Tara aims to make the learning process fun so her students will be more engaged. She also employs the natural qualities that lead her to study psychology to begin with, though this is made more challenging due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I try hard to always have compassion and empathy for my students, but I think they needed to feel even more support this year,” she said. “I realized I had to amp up my own self-care so I could be fully present and that it was important to check in with students more frequently and talk about ways they, too, could incorporate self-care into their daily routine.”
Though she has typically taught a combination of online and face-to-face courses over the years, the shift to primarily online learning means Tara encourages her students to reach out if they are struggling.
“In a face-to-face class it is easy to see when students don’t understand a concept and I can adjust how I explain the information. In the online environment, I don’t get that feedback.,” she said. “I think many students believe online learning means learning on your own – but it isn’t that at all. It distresses me when I find out a student has spent a week trying to figure out a concept or to deal with a technical issue. Learning should be challenging but it should not be a continual experience of frustration. College of the Rockies faculty and staff are focused on student success, we just need to know you need help.”
And as much as she loves teaching, Tara feels she regularly learns at least as much from her students as they do from her.
“Every student teaches me something. It might be humility, patience, to check my assumption, or to be authentic and honest. The list goes on and on,” she said.