Peggy Vockeroth has a passion not only for education, but also for encouraging others to make sure life-long learning is one of their most upfront goals as well.
It’s been several years now that Vockeroth has served in the role of student adviser with Campus Alberta Central – based out of the Stettler Learning Centre.
“Upon completion of high school, I entered the workforce,” she recalls of her early years in figuring out what her ideal career path would be. “And within five years, I realized that if I wanted to advance in a career, I had to have some kind of post-secondary education coupled with experience,” she explained. “I realized the value and the return of investment in education. I knew career opportunities would open up.
“So, I entered the University of Calgary as a mature student, while working full-time.”
Vockeroth knew that she loved working with others, so human resources seemed the natural fit.
She was also working for someone who promoted continuous learning.
”After successful completion of my program, I was promoted into human resources where I held various roles for approximately 20 years. I saw how opening that door for education provided opportunities for further development and travel with that employer. My passion for education started there.”
But rural Alberta was calling.
Vockeroth and her family later settled on a farm near Halkirk in the mid-1990s, where she was also able to continue to work for the same employer from home.
Eventually, she opted to volunteer within the community as well, first becoming involved with the County Adult Learning Centre.
“I also did some contract HR work from my home, and worked with another organization that focused on educating high school students on employment/post-secondary options to explore, and did some career counselling at two employment centres.”
Then, about a decade ago, she came onboard with the Stettler Learning Centre.
“Campus Alberta Central and Stettler Learning Centre became ‘housed’ in one location. And I saw this as an opportunity to follow my passion – working with people, guiding them with options to continue on their learning journey through foundational ‘laddering’ to post-secondary programs or obtaining skills to enter the workforce.”
Campus Alberta Central is a joint venture with both Olds College and Red Deer College.
“As a site, we are able to provide student support services on career planning, post-secondary program information, assistance with pre-requisite courses, applications/registration processes and connecting learners to college departments, etc.
“But more importantly, I want to emphasize that students can ‘ladder’ from one program to another. Campus Alberta Central brings the post-secondary opportunities to rural Albertans – lowering the financial costs, offering small class sizes, less travel and students also have all the access locally versus going to urban post-secondary institutions.
“My belief – life is a continuous learning journey.”
For Vockeroth, it’s clearly the most fulfilling venture yet.
“My fulfillment and personal satisfaction is when we work with a motivated learner and they achieve steps to fulfill their goals,” she explained. “I see how far they have come, and the determination and motivation they have to become successful. When they succeed, we succeed. That’s what keeps me passionate about what I do.”
Looking back, life experiences have also helped Vockeroth to develop a real heart for learners – including those who feel uneasy at the whole prospect of tackling these new challenges.
Her family moved quite a bit when she was growing up as her dad was in the Air Force. So building a sense of resiliency was key to managing the flurry of changes.
“You became adaptable; you became flexible,” she said. “So it’s definitely enhanced that sense of empathy for a learner walking in our door.
“You’ve also got to be a good listener. And you have to empathize with a learner. You also have to give them permission, that whatever choices or decisions they have made in the past – it doesn’t matter. It’s okay to let all of that go. You are here now, and if you want, we can help you! But it has to come from you.
“So you are building trust, you are building relationships, you are building the foundations of giving them confidence and increasing their self-esteem. And you are accepting the fact that life brings challenges to all of us. We make choices and decisions based on what is happening to us at the time,” she explained, adding that again, staff simply encourage new learners to embrace the challenges to learn ‘from here on in’.
“You become their advocate. And that is so important – that they know you are advocating for them, and that you are in their corner.”
Meanwhile, for Vockeroth, the working day doesn’t end when she leaves the Learning Centre.
“As I live on a cattle farm, at the end of the day, my day doesn’t necessarily stop.”
But really, she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I love being outdoors. My downtime includes gardening, camping, reading, walking, calving and more importantly spending time with my grandchildren.”
But no matter what, her passion for learning is never far from her thoughts. Even in the most challenging of seasons.
“It may bring you some challenges, but it’s also about opportunities. Even though you may have been dragged through the dirt the day before and you’re asking yourself how you could handle things differently or what you could do better – it’s about letting it go and realizing that today is a new day!
“Let’s see what today brings! It’s about your attitude, and it’s about your outlook.”