Connie Gensler’s passion can be compared to a pebble thrown into a calm pond. While the pebble itself is small, it is the catalyst for an expanding ring that touches even the farthest shore.
Connie is a registered nurse as well as a teacher and an advisor at Nicolet College. It’s evident that she has a great passion for what she does. In fact, Connie was just recently awarded the prestigious Outstanding Achievement Award from the Wisconsin Academic Advising Association. Only one of these awards is granted every year. “I help students find a career path and then help them develop a plan to accomplish their goals,” she said. “I know once they get out into their chosen profession they will be helping other people and that means so much to me.”
This compassionate and loving woman grew up in the Sheboygan area and her yearning to become a nurse was innate. “My grandparents had a farm and whenever one of the animals got sick and had to have a shot I was always fascinated with the syringes,” she laughed. “My dolls got plenty of shots.”
Connie’s mom was a teacher and her father was a paramedic and firefighter, so she had some experience with both of the roles she plays today. After graduating high school, she immediately enrolled at Northcentral Technical College in Wausau. “They had a two year program for nursing and my goal was to take that and start working right away,” she said. “I couldn’t wait to become a nurse.”
It was geriatric care that really interested her and Connie received gerontological certification when she graduated. “I have always loved working with seniors,” she said. “That has always been my passion.” After graduating from NTC, Connie got a job working in a nursing home. She has also worked in clinic and hospital settings throughout her career. And then in 1995, she came to Nicolet College as a nursing assistant instructor. She then went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in nursing.
Up to that point, Connie had always gotten great satisfaction from the one-on-one contact she had with her patients. But when she came to Nicolet, she realized how teaching students could affect even more people. “I loved showing my students how to nurse,” she said. “I always tried to be a good role model, showing my students not only about the technical aspects of the profession, but also how important compassion is when you are dealing with someone who is sick.”
Since coming to Nicolet, Connie has worked in many different aspects of nursing including as a teacher, advisor and clinical instructor. She remembers very fondly Instructor Ann Tegen who was her mentor when she came to Nicolet. “She taught me so much and what she did teach me I am passing down to my students today,” she said. “She was really an inspiration and even though Ann is retired, she remains my very good friend to this day.”
This year, Connie is back in a teaching role and she couldn’t be more excited about it. “I bring the perspective of being a good role model, and trying to show my students what a good nurse is like,” she said. “You have to have integrity, values and ethics and, above all, compassion to be a good nurse.”
Over the years, Connie has also seen the need for nursing assistants soar. “There is a huge demand for these students once they graduate,” she said. “In fact, two of my students already have jobs waiting for them when they do graduate in a few months.”
Connie also teaches nursing skills to students at Tomahawk High School. “I love this part of my job,” she said. “These students are like sponges and so eager to learn. And I feel it is so important to expose these students to what a nurse or nurse’s assistant does. Those that want to pursue this career will have a good understanding of what it entails when they graduate, and it’s also good for those who think they might like this career but find out they don’t. Then when they graduate high school, they can pursue other choices that might be a better fit for them.”
While Connie certainly does have a passion for what she does, she also realizes that if it wasn’t for her family and co-workers, she would not be where she is today. Her family includes her husband Rick, four children and nine grandchildren. “Any occupation in the medical field can be stressful and it is so important to have a strong support system,” she said. “I feel so fortunate to have that with my family and co-workers.”
In fact, it was her co-worker Leanne Vigue Miranda, also a nursing advisor, who nominated Connie for this award. To be considered, nominees must have a minimum of 10 years in the advising profession and have a record of excellence in their work. They must also have made distinct contributions to the college above and beyond their work in academic advising or have developed new and effective programs to meet their students’ needs. “Connie has taught me so much about being an academic advisor, all the while leading by example,” Leanne said.
Today, Connie is content in her role as a skilled academic advisor and teacher, yet she does miss the one-on-one contact with patients and their care. She is thinking of maybe this summer working part-time in a facility where she can have close interaction with patients. And yet she knows, like the pebble thrown into a pond, that her teaching can affect so many more lives. “When I was a nurse in a clinic or hospital, I might care for up to eight patients,” she said. “Now I see how many people I can help through my students. I can teach them skills and then they go out and help and teach others. That gives me a lot of satisfaction.”