Living the Dream!
Randy Renken began his professional life pursuing a much different career.
The Rochester Community and Technical College (RCTC) instructor began teaching at the College in 2001. Just before that he was a Mayo School of Health-Related Sciences graduate school student studying physical therapy.
“Every time I had a new clinical rotation I ended up disliking what I was being trained for more and more and more,” Renken says.
So, “on a whim,” he decided to chat to a former RCTC instructor he had as a student and ask about teaching anatomy and physiology.
Just that morning the instructor had been talking about how the school needed another such instructor.
“They called me in the next day for an interview,” Renken says.
He ended up teaching an intro to anatomy and physiology class on Saturdays.
“(I) ended up loving it, absolutely loving it,” he says. He kept taking on any and all classes as an adjunct instructor. “I like the pace at which it goes; I like a fast pace.”
Eventually, he became a full-time instructor in 2004. His primary classes have remained anatomy and physiology, with a majority of students either in or waiting to be in the nursing program.
Anatomy and Physiology 1 is his favorite class to teach, due to its focus on the skeletal system.
“My background in grad school would explain that. I’ve even got to the point I like it so much, I’m seriously considering donating my body for a skeleton to be used in the future for students in science. We’ll see. Let’s not hope that happens anytime soon,” Renken laughs.
It may sound grim, but Renken admits that every time he’s worked with a cadaver, he’s learned something new.
And learning how much RCTC and students appreciate him is an additional surprise.
“I absolutely feel honored and humbled that students would take their time, their valuable time, to write a letter on my behalf to recognize me. I feel very fortunate to have such caring students.”
With the award, Renken had to put together a portfolio of sorts.
“The biggest reward of doing all that – I went back and looked at former surveys from the students – was seeing all the work they appreciated, that I had done.”
For the Dover-Eyota native, it was a nice sentiment. Asking Renken how he teaches is met with a quick answer (after he diverges to talk about pigs and cats – ask him about both sometime).
Renken’s teaching philosophy is that students are adults, and he treats them as such. There is freedom in showing up – or not – for class. But he’s also aware of real-world, adult issues that crop up from time to time, and knows sometimes people need to take care of a sick kid.
It’s flexibility he has enjoyed as an instructor.
“I love the hours I have,” says Renken. “I appreciate that. Now that I’m a grandfather I can do a lot of grandpa daycare.”
The other thing he loves is how he was a former student here and how much he loved the science department.
“The Anatomy and Physiology (class) I took here was top-notch. I went to Winona State, and had to take an advanced A and P class, there was literally nothing new for me to learn.
“I want to keep that same criteria. Our nursing program, which is primarily my students, is one of the best in the state for passing the nursing boards the first time. They have an exceptional passing rate. That says a lot, and I want to keep that bar at that level.
“I’m living my dream I guess I can say,” he laughs.