Mid-Plains Community College begins the fall semester with four new instructors, teaching welding, diesel tech, business, and music.
The diesel tech, business and music instructors will join the North Platte campus.
MPCC’s new diesel technology instructor in North Platte is also an alum of the college.
Kelley Cole is originally from Dodge City, Kan. He spent much of his life working in banking before deciding to try something a little more hands-on. He found an opportunity through the Service Technician Sponsorship program offered by Titan Machinery.
“The company paid for all of my diesel technician training and tools,” Cole said. “I worked for them for four years in return. That’s part of the reason I chose to attend Mid-Plains. My wife and I had been living in Wichita and were looking for a smaller community. Titan has a store in North Platte, so by moving here, I was able to work and go to school at the same time.”
Cole graduated from the college’s Diesel Technology program in 2014. While he enjoyed the work, he eventually found that he needed a job that was more flexible for his growing family.
“Teaching has allowed me that flexibility while still enabling me to stay in a field I’ve come to love,” Cole said. “I’m looking forward to putting my own spin on the program and helping others learn. Diesel technology is a very important industry. A lot of people depend on technicians to keep their equipment running, which is why there are so many opportunities for those trained in this particular skill set. The trucking and agriculture industries won’t be going anywhere any time soon.”
NPCC’s new business instructor, Sean Tossi, draws from his life experiences when teaching. A career in the Aerospace/Defense Industry had him living all over the country – from California to Washington, D.C. – and doing everything from contracts, negotiations and logistics to project and supply chain management.
Prior to moving to North Platte, Tossi was living in the town where he was born and raised, Clarks Summit, Pa.
“I was teaching at a two-year technical college, but was looking for a new opportunity,” Tossi said. “MPCC impressed me from the get-go because of the wide variety of programs it offers and, specifically in the business department, the diverse set of courses available. I’m a big believer in the community college system. I truly believe community colleges are the backbone of our country.”
Tossi has been teaching for three years. It’s a profession that came naturally to him – his father is a professor who teaches mechanical engineering classes at Penn State University.
“Ever since I was a young child, I would go into my father’s classrooms and watch him,” Tossi said. “I knew right off the bat that I wanted to do that someday. I love the learning process – the transfer of knowledge and seeing the excitement on students’ faces when they grasp something new.”
He’s already had the opportunity to be a part of that with the start of fall classes at MPCC, and he’s excited for even more student interaction.
“I want to help students identify what their future career interests are, and for those who already have an idea of what they want to do, I want to help them solidify their goals,” Tossi said. “Whether that’s continuing on with their education or going into the industry, I’m looking forward to being part of that next step for them.”
Kristin Simpson is no stranger to Mid-Plains Community College. She has served as an adjunct instructor in North Platte for about three years and was also the interim music instructor last spring.
Originally from Lincoln, she attended grad school at the University of Nebraska Omaha where she obtained a Master of Music degree with an emphasis in violin performance.
She and her husband, Dr. Jonathan Simpson, moved to North Platte 12 years ago, and Kristin soon began looking for ways to be involved musically in the community.
“Music has always been a part of my life,” Kristin said. “I began piano lessons at age 7 and my great grandmother started me on violin before fifth grade. I was involved in choir and orchestra all through grade school, then have either accompanied or sung since then. I’ve taught choir, been in the pit and taken voice lessons.”
Kristin joined the North Platte Community College choir for fun and subsequently decided to try out for the select choir as well. Eventually, she became the accompanist for both choirs and for vocal lessons. In the spring of 2018, she began teaching for the college as an adjunct instructor.
“I think teaching chose me,” Kristin said. “It just came naturally and was a real source of joy. I love to show and teach and display. The more I learn about music, the more exciting it becomes, and I want to share that with people. Performing is great, but teaching is where I really light up – where I become who I really am.”
Her goal is not just to promote the music department, but to promote the college’s entire Associate of Fine Arts degree program.
“I’m excited to watch the program grow and am looking forward to collaborating with the art and theater instructors,” Kristin said. “I think we have something special, and I can’t wait to share that with the world.”
MPCC’s new first-year welding instructor in McCook taught health and physical education for McCook Public Schools for six years and also coached four sports.
“I decided to take a different route that would provide more flexibility for my family,” Holthus said. “I’m originally from McCook, but both of my grandparents were dairy and hog farmers in Kansas, so I’ve been around welding for quite a few years and always had an interest in it.”
Holthus graduated from the McCook welding program last year after working part-time as the program’s welding lab technician.
“It has been a fun process to see things from the student perspective and now that of an instructor,” Holthus said. “I’m able to take a lot of things that I learned last year and implement them. I’m looking forward to building up the program and working with students who want to go into welding. The students are here because they want to be here, and because of that, they are pretty dedicated.”
Holthus is especially excited about the opportunity to introduce local high school students to the field through a collaboration with McCook High School.
“We work with about a dozen high school students on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” Holthus said. “Getting that experience early on is so valuable to them. They will be so far ahead in an industry where the demand is higher than ever. A lot of the older welders are retiring, and those jobs need to be replenished. It’s very important that we, as instructors, sell that fact and make sure these students know the sky is the limit as far as opportunities.”