Published on May 12, 2021
In a year like no other full of challenges and change, John A. Logan College English Professor Matt Garrison’s philosophy of education was not deterred. It was reinforced. As both a professor and department chair, Garrison was instrumental in developing plans to move the College to remote instruction while also challenging himself to find new ways to reach and motivate his students without the traditional interaction that has been the hallmark of his teaching. For his efforts, Garrison has been named the 2021 John A. Logan College Outstanding Full-Time Faculty Member.
Despite the many challenges of both COVID and an electrical fire that disrupted the first week of the fall semester, Garrison embraced the situation because he believes students need their instructors to adapt and change.
“My philosophy of education is a moving target because life is change. Education is change; it’s progress,” said Garrison. “New semesters and students, different assignments and challenges. Our students need us to change. We are getting older; they are not. The world seems to get darker, yet our students, when properly motivated, remain bright as ever. They light the way.”
According to Dean for Academic Affairs Dr. Stephanie Chaney Hartford, Garrison is a true example of a community college instructor.
“I am so proud that Matt has been bestowed with this honor,” said Hartford. “He is articulate, kind, enthusiastic, and full of compassion in all he does, and his colleagues and students greatly respect him.”
The son of teachers, Garrison loved being a student, at least most of the time. However, he didn’t love being a student at the end of his senior year at Eastern Illinois University.
“I was taking 18 hours to graduate, but my graduation application got rejected because I lacked three hours in humanities,” said Garrison. “Soured by my adviser’s—and admittedly my own—oversight, I enrolled in a Philosophy telecourse the following semester at a community college.”
Despite not getting off to a good start in the course, the experience changed Garrison’s life and motivated his career path.
“I have to admit that I hated it. After week 6, I stopped attending. Around midterm, my mom found out I was skipping, and after some gentle encouragement from her, I approached the professor seeking lenience. To my surprise, my request was received with compassion. He granted me a second chance, which I did not waste. I finished and earned my degree.”
The experience inspired him to pursue a master’s degree in higher education. After teaching part-time for JALC, he joined the full-time faculty in 2005. Since 2016 he has served as department chair of Communications, Humanities, and Social Sciences, the College’s largest department. However, for all of his accomplishments, it is the relationships with students and colleagues that make this recognition so special to him.
“One of the great pleasures of my time here at the College has been the many friends I have made,” said Garrison. “To be nominated and selected for an award like this is special because I don’t feel that I am more deserving than anyone else, but it feels good to be recognized by your peers because I love working here, and I love the people here.”
In a year that has seen constant challenge and change, Matt Garrison has chosen to embrace those challenges, and his students have benefited.
“I embrace change because I need to learn new things. Therefore, I constantly modify my teaching methods and even the content I bring into my classes to be accountable to today’s students. That is what students need from us, and even though it can be frustrating and even impossible at times, it is the right battle to fight for our students.”
No one knows what challenges educators will face in the coming years. But one thing is for sure, Matt Garrison will continue to adapt and change, and his students will continue to benefit