OTC's Mary Emma Featured in Statesboro Magazine
Posted on Sep 14, 2021 at 18:21 PM
When Mary Emma Gainous was an infant, her parents, Matt and Broni Gainous, placed her in the Child Enrichment Center at their place of employment, Ogeechee Technical College (OTC), for daily childcare. As Mary Emma got older, she would ride to work with her dad, an English instructor, and before he dropped her off at elementary school, she would go to his office and make coffee for all the instructors in his building. She became the “Coffee Maker Specialist” complete with an “official” OTC name badge. One of the young barista’s customers was the late Dan Bickerton, an instructor in the Fish & Wildlife Management program.
“I can remember how excited I would get when Dad told me that we were going to Mr. Dan’s classroom,” said Mary Emma. She was excited because Dan Bickerton’s classroom held many examples of his work with wildlife: skulls from various animals found in the woods, animal pelts, assorted feathers, a Bonsai tree, and a live pet snake named Princess; engaging items for her young inquisitive mind.“Mr. Dan taught me a lot about animals in general,” said Mary Emma. “He taught me about snakes and he let me feed Princess, who turned out to be a boy! It’s been a long time ago, but I can remember how much I loved his classroom and learning about all the wildlife.”
Something that was reinforced by her father and her Papa, who often took her hunting and taught her about caring for the land, and animal conservation, putting out corn for deer. Those early adventures led Mary Emma to want to be a veterinarian when she grew up. “I have always known that I wanted to help animals and the environment,” said Mary Emma. “Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be a veterinarian, but I knew I would not be able to tell a family that I wasn’t able to save their loving pet. "Something Mary Emma knows about having recently experienced the loss of her family’s 14-year-old black Lab, Hunter. Instead she has chosen the field which Dan Bickerton introduced to her long ago. Mary Emma is now enrolled at OTC in the Fish & Wildlife Management program, a venture she started while still in high school in Metter.
“I was joint enrolled in the program my senior year at Metter High,” said Mary Emma. “I graduated in May of this year, so this fall I will be starting at OTC full time. I’ll be taking College 1010, Dendrology (the study of trees), Forest Technology, and Mammology.” Fortunately for Mary Emma, her Wildlife courses will be taught by Casey Corbett, the Technical College System of Georgia’s 2021 Instructor of the Year! Corbett was chosen for the Rick Perkins Award for Excellence in Technical Instruction in May of this year after competing at the local, regional and state levels. She was chosen from nine finalists after a virtual interview in front of a panel of judges.
Corbett, who has taught at OTC since 2017, has previously worked as the Tech Prep and School to Work Coordinator at Southeastern Technical College, science teacher at Tattnall County High School, small business owner, and the Education Coordinator at the Georgia Southern University Center for Wildlife Education. She is a certified Hunter Education Instructor for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and holds Georgia Master Naturalist certification from the UGA Cooperative Extension Service and the UGA Warnell School of Forestry & Natural Resources.
Corbett is the perfect instructor to mentor Mary Emma’s interest in wildlife management and steer her toward a career goal that matches her current curiosity in fish biology. Aware of the many career options available to wildlife specialists, Corbett had this to say about her students after winning the Rick Perkins honor: “My students are the future stewards of wildlife and our natural resources,” she said. “They are the future conservationists that our state, nation, and world really need. I am teaching them, not just to prepare them for a successful career, but more importantly so they can teach others how to be better stewards of our planet.”
It’s a wonderful coincidence that Casey Corbett has inherited Dan Bickerton’s classroom along with a few skulls, and a resident beaver and bobcat, both donated victims of taxidermy. Mary Emma will be attending classes in the same room where she fed Princess years ago.
She will also get the benefit of an outdoor/hands on learning experience with ATVs and other equipment the College provides to assist students in preparing for jobs in real world Wildlife Management. There are trails and traps which are set to capture native animals for up-close observation by students. Such as the opossum Mary Emma can be seen releasing unharmed back into its native habitat.
Being a good steward is something that Mary Emma believes in, too.
“I have always loved finding all sorts of things when walking through the woods,” she said. “I also love hunting and fishing, so I want to learn how to keep all of the animals and the environment healthy. We need to be aware of our wildlife and our land, and know what we need to do to take care of it, otherwise future generations won’t be able to enjoy our beautiful world.”
Teachers rarely see the seeds they plant in young students come to fruition. It’s a happy ending for all of us when we can see a student like Mary Emma grow into the kind of person instructors Dan Bickerton and Casey Corbett imagined her to be.
Words and image courtesy of Statesboro Magazine
About Ogeechee Technical College:
Ogeechee Technical College (OTC) is a unit of the Technical College System of Georgia. OTC provides student‐centered academic and occupational programs and support services at the associate degree, diploma, and certificate levels. OTC utilizes traditional and distance education methodologies in state-of-the-art facilities while supporting adult education, continuing education, and customized business and industry workforce training. Visit www.ogeecheetech.edu for more information.
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