Mendocino College Faculty in Focus: Rebecca Montes
Associate Professor Rebecca Montes vividly recalls the first day of her graduate program in history when the department chair announced: "If you can possibly see yourself doing anything besides teaching history, you should leave now and do it, as jobs in this field are practically non-existent." Stunned, Montes thought about it carefully, and decided she would take her chances, because she honestly could not see herself doing anything else.
Montes says her enthusiasm for teaching history originated with a favorite aunt, who was a history teacher, but it was nurtured in high school and college by other faculty who made history come alive for her.
Originally from San Gabriel, California, Montes received a B.A. Degree in history from Santa Clara University, where she fell in love with Northern California. After graduation, she traveled to Austin, Texas, where she earned both a Master's degree and a Ph.D in history at the University of Texas. She stayed in Austin for nine years, teaching part-time for both the University of Texas and Austin Community College; however, she dreamed of returning to Northern California someday. When she learned that Mendocino College had a history position available, she applied, and the rest is ... history.
Now in her fifth year at Mendocino College, Montes says her favorite class at the moment is the "Women In American History" class she is teaching at the Lake County Center. "The students are so interested and opinionated. It is lots of fun," she says smiling. She describes her teaching style as "casual." She says she particularly enjoys sharing the "inside," often humorous parts of history that are not mentioned in textbooks.
Montes says the best part of her job is "being in the classroom with the students." She says, "I love telling them the stories of history, and I never know what questions they will ask, so it is always engaging and fun." She notes that students sometimes come to class disliking her favorite subject, and it delights her when they recognize that history is both interesting and important.
The most challenging part of her job is "time," she says. Teaching multiple classes in both Lakeport and Ukiah, she finds it necessary to carefully balance her time between preparing for classes, teaching, traveling, and grading papers for over 150 students.
Montes says she is passionate about American history. She explains: "It is important that people learn our history, including the history of women and minorities in America, so we can better understand how our present circumstances came about."
Students motivate her, she says. "Many of them are working so hard to be successful in spite of the huge challenges of balancing college, work, and families. I am proud to be able to contribute to what these people are accomplishing."
She encourages aspiring history professors to "be sure it is what you want to do, as full-time positions are difficult to find. But if you are lucky, it's the best job there is," she says with a grin.
Montes believes most of her students would be surprised to know that she and her husband owned an ice cream store in Boonville for the first two years she taught at MC. "I don't talk much about my family in class," she admits. Her husband, Ed, now works in the wine industry. Montes' family also includes toddler son, Huck, who is "a joy to be with," and a beloved 14 year old cat.