Megan Noel

Professor’s tough trek

A former foster child who learned not to give the details of her life story, Megan Noel is ready to share what she’s learned to help other students at JCCC who are struggling to stay (and succeed) in school. 

“I’m a professor here, and I love it, but getting here wasn’t necessarily easy,” said Noel, professor, business administration. 

Noel dropped out of school in the eighth grade. She was a foster child, and “when you’re a foster child, you feel as if the whole world has abandoned you,” she said. 

After three children and the end of a rocky marriage, Noel set her sights on an engineering degree. She enrolled in college once her youngest child entered the first grade. The first meeting with the engineering department’s assistant dean was extremely memorable for all the wrong reasons. 

“He just sat me down and told me I wouldn’t make it through his program,” Noel said. “That I didn’t have enough family support, I worked too many hours, I had too many children, I didn’t have the proper math background, and I had all these strikes against me, and he strongly urged me to change majors or try something else.” 

Undeterred, Noel kept a precarious balance between school life and home life following the dictates below. They carried her through a bachelor’s degree in engineering. 

When Noel met with that same assistant dean four-and-a-half years later to check her transcript for graduation, he remembered her. 

“He said, ‘You must have thought I was mean that day I gave you all those reasons. But I wasn’t mean.  Statistically speaking, individuals like you don’t have success in my program. So the next time someone like you ends up my office, tell me, what did you do so that I don’t have to tell them what I told you, and I can say to do this?’” she said. 

1. Be committed to your goal. “Set that educational goal so firmly in your heart no commotion, no distraction can deter you from it.” 

2. Break that goal down into workable increments. This doesn’t mean just semesters, but sometimes assignments or hours. “Sometimes I had to tell myself, ‘You can sleep this weekend. Tonight, you going to finish this homework.’” 

3. Prioritize. “Limit your TV watching. Always do homework before socializing. I was so proud of having my homework done, even 30 minutes of socializing was better than four hours of socializing without your homework done.” 

4. Organize. “I know sounds it sounds crazy – ‘I don’t have time to get organized’ …[but] there’s nothing like looking for the baby’s left shoe to just ruin your day.” 

5. Turn off that negative voice. “Believe in yourself. You are going to get a job.” 

6. Take your resume to people in your career field. And listen to what they say. Spend 40-80 hours on your resume. “When you think you’re done, you’re not.” 

7. Be your own mirror. “One of my favorite sayings is, ‘Who you are is not dependent on other people’s opinion of you.’ Deep down inside, we know who we are.” 

Of course, she still recognizes in herself the need for approval – a common problem in those once in the foster-care system, Noel said. And she sometimes misses waiting tables because “you can shut that off.” Teaching, on the other hand, takes up so much mental and emotional energy, since she’s worried about this student and that lesson. She’s been at JCCC for 10 years. 

Even so, she wouldn’t trade her education for anything. She completed her master’s in business administration, and she urges others to continue their education, despite what setbacks may arise. “Sometimes it’s like climbing up a mudslide, but you’ll get there. At some point, it will stop raining.”