Longtime biological sciences professor Holly O’Toole is making the transition from teacher to leader on Western Nevada College’s Fallon campus this summer.
But some will say she has been serving as a leader for more than a decade, especially with her students.
O’Toole was recently named the WNC Fallon campus and rural outreach director.
“Holly brings with her a passion for student access and a record of excellence serving students in the classroom,” said Scott Morrison, WNC vice president of Academic and Student Affairs. “I am confident that her involvement with rural outreach will enhance our college’s service to students in Fallon and the surrounding communities.”
Since 2007, O’Toole has primarily taught human anatomy and biology to WNC students. She’s also been very active on the Fallon campus as a student and faculty adviser, and in leading student research projects.
“I believe what we do everyday matters and that we should leave the world a better place than we found it,” O’Toole said. “I have faith in this community and in rural Nevada to meet the educational challenges that lie ahead of us and I want to be part of that.”
It only takes a sampling to understand how much O’Toole meant to her students:
Studying to become an interpreter for the deaf at the time, Leah Burfield said, “Holly makes science fun and easy. She presents material in a way that you know you can learn it and know you can succeed.”
Former Jump Start student Whitney Skabelund said this about O’Toole: “I loved my biology class with professor Holly O’Toole, and this reinforced my desire to go into the science field.”
O’Toole’s passion for teaching and her ability to make a complex subject comprehensible endeared her to students.
“I love what I do. Science is already hard. The difficult part of teaching science is to make the knowledge understandable to students,” O’Toole said.
Surrendering her teaching duties wasn’t an easy decision for O’Toole.
“I will most definitely miss teaching,” she said. “It is an extremely rewarding occupation. One of my former students just texted me that she had been accepted into the nursing program. I will miss getting those texts!”
O’Toole’s vision for the Fallon campus is to continue the college’s focus on student access and affordability to improve college completion rates.
“We would like to begin to meet this goal by raising awareness of WNC in Fallon and growing the services and programs we offer here on our local campus,” O’Toole said. “We will be offering welding again this fall for adults, as well as dual credit and Jump Start for high school students. The INBRE (undergraduate) summer research just had another successful summer. Angela Viera has (non-credit) College for Kids classes happening all summer. I would like to thank WNC and the Fallon community for their support of our programs. It takes a village!”
This fall, Fallon is offering classes necessary for degrees in welding, nursing and education, as well as courses leading to associate of arts and science degrees, which enable students to complete the first two years of a bachelor’s degree.
Education was paramount in transforming O’Toole’s life and she wants to continue advocating the importance of education to Fallon and other rural communities.
“A huge motivator for me as a young person was poverty in my life and the lives of those around me. The best solution for that is education,” she said.
WNC re-established the nursing program in Fallon in 2016, providing better access to the program for students in the Northern Nevada’s rural communities. Two years later, O’Toole witnessed with great satisfaction when Fallon graduates participated in the Pinning Ceremony in May in Carson City.
“I was thrilled to attend the WNC 2018 Nursing pinning and watch the Fallon graduates walk across the stage,” said O’Toole, who taught these students the science classes they needed for entry into the nursing program. “I would like to thank WNC, retired director Sherry Black, the Churchill County Commissioners and Banner Churchill Community Hospital for making our local RN program possible.”
For more information about WNC’s Fallon campus and classes, phone 775-423-7565.