Homegrown: Turner Goes from Student to Teacher

Written by Kayla Morris – Foundation Intern, Summer 2021

[CLINTON, N.C.] – Born and raised in Clinton, NC, John Turner recently graduated from Sampson Community College in April of 2021 and secured a full-time job with the SCC Emergency Medical Services (EMS) department in May. Turner has been working as a Level I EMS instructor for the Workforce Development & Continuing Education division of SCC for approximately two months.

Turner graduated from Clinton High School in 2004 and took evening classes at SCC to earn his Emergency Medical Technician certification while still in high school. He completed the program in 2003.

After graduating high school, Turner continued to work in EMS in various capacities. His most recent position before becoming an instructor was as a flight paramedic at Vidant EastCare in Greenville. Turner was able to assist injured patients being airlifted in helicopters for four years and occasionally still works there today. 

Turner working as a flight paramedic at Vidant EastCare in Greenville, North Carolina with co-worker Leslie Johnson, Certified Flight Registered Nurse.

Allison Turner, ACE Lead Instructor at SCC and Turner’s wife, says, “Throughout the years, John had mentioned finishing his degree until one day he decided to go for it. I watched him work a full-time job as a flight paramedic while he finished his degree. It was not easy, but he did it!”

While recently working to complete his associate degree, Turner was also able to work as a part-time instructor at Sampson Community College. Turner says that there was an interesting dynamic with instructors because he was both a student and co-worker.

Jim DeMay, Director of Public Safety at SCC, says he is glad to have Turner as a part of their EMS team, and that students will benefit from Turner’s experiences in the field. 

“John was a great student who helped our program to grow. He brings lots of experience from the field having worked for some of the best agencies in North Carolina,” DeMay commented.

Earning an associate degree allows Turner to have more credibility in his field and teach advanced courses. However, in the next few years, the requirements to instruct higher-level courses will change from requiring an associate degree to a bachelor’s degree. Turner plans on taking that next step once he settles into his new job. 

Typically, Turner begins his day by arriving to the college around 7:00 am, about an hour before students arrive. He then reviews emails and prepares teaching materials. Classes begin at 8:00 am and Turner is in the classroom until 3:15 pm. He then wraps up his day and goes home around 4:00 pm. 

When asked about the effects of COVID-19 on the EMS department, Turner says that just like everyone else, COVID-19 added a new stressor to students’ daily lives. Students are still required to ride on ambulances and go into hospitals, so any fear of COVID-19 comes with students to the classroom and can be a challenge to work through. 

Turner says that COVID-19 forced the EMS department to become more comfortable with teaching courses in an online format. Now, students from several areas can participate in courses at SCC. Students from around 70 to 80 counties in North Carolina have taken EMS courses at SCC, because the program is now more accessible online. 

Turner enjoys instructing at Sampson for several reasons, including his students, coworkers, and time spent closer to home. “I am really enjoying teaching. It’s different from the hustle and bustle of being in the helicopter, but I really like it here, especially since I get to spend more time with my wife,” Turner reflected.

Turner is open about the hard times he had as a student and wants others to know that he understands the struggle of pursuing higher education. He says the most important thing is to go after what you love to succeed. 

Looking toward the future, Turner sees the EMS program growing through the increase of student enrollment, staff, and course offerings. The program will also be progressing to receive national accreditation in hopes of making its name more well known throughout the state and in the EMS world.  

Overall, Turner is thankful for the opportunity to be an instructor at SCC. Turner says, “I just want to say thank you to the administration and staff from both curriculum and continuing education for all the support and trust they have put in me to be an instructor here.”

Turner’s coworkers are equally as thankful for Turner’s willingness to teach, and for the experiences he brings to the EMS program. Level 2 EMS Instructor and Clinical Coordinator, Christopher Pritchard, says, “John’s ability to adapt, lead, and communicate are essential to Sampson Community College and the growth of our program. He truly cares and has a passion for students and his coworkers here at SCC.”

Although Turner has been a full-time instructor for a short time, many students and staff are excited to see how the program will continue to develop with Turner as a part of the EMS team.

“I’ve seen a lot of growth in SCC over the years, especially with big programs that are now recognized in our community and beyond,” Turner stated.

About Sampson Community College:  Sampson Community College is a member of the North Carolina Community College System, located in Clinton, NC in Sampson County. The college offers many programs to include two-year degrees, college transfer, continuing education and workforce development options and early college education.

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