Although he grew up in Huntington Beach, California, in the heart of surfing country, Jaime Cechin, Associate Professor of English at Mendocino College, prefers to play ice hockey! He still gets together with his SoCal friends to play ice hockey whenever he can!
Raised by a single mom, who worked as a secretary, Cechin says she inspired her three children to develop a work ethic and a need to excel. Cechin's education includes an AA degree from Golden West Community College in 1997, a BA in English from U.C. Berkeley in 1999, and a Master of Arts degree in English from CSU Long Beach in 2004. While attending college, Cechin worked at an elementary daycare center, then as a tutor for the Blue Lotus Writing Academy, where most of his students were Korean immigrants. After completing his MA degree, he continued tutoring while teaching English composition part-time at Golden West College. He also bartended for five years while living in San Francisco, Italy (he speaks Italian), and Southern California. While bartending in Italy, Cechin says people would ask him to teach them English, which he did, for $10 an hour plus two beers.
Regarding early influences, Cechin recalls that in elementary school, he was part of the “Best Foot Forward” program, which encouraged kids to read a book, then talk to the school librarian about it; there were competitions which he remembers winning several times. “I loved to read!” he says. While he was a student at Golden West, his first English professor, Cecilia Galassi, was interesting, fun, and challenged him. Another English professor, Mickey Jackson, became a mentor who gave him important advice: “Get involved in college shared governance”, she told him. “Most job applicants don't have a clear understanding of how a college works. If you have that,” she said, “you will have a real advantage in the job market.”
Cechin says his first trip to Ukiah was when he interviewed for the position he now holds. He thought Mendocino County would be a lot like Italy, and, to his delight, it is! He has bought a house and put down roots in Ukiah. “I love it here!” he enthuses. He notes that he meets a lot of young people who left the area after high school, but are coming back now that they realize what an incredibly wonderful place this is.
Cechin says composition courses are his favorites to teach, although he also enjoys teaching literature classes. He likes to engage his students by using TV clips, music, and YouTube to show how these media relate to reading and writing in the real world. “I love working with people to develop their personal writing voices,” he says.
Active in campus life, Cechin teaches summer English classes for high school students, and he enjoys helping his colleagues with such mundane tasks as writing student learning outcomes, or reading plays aloud so students in a playwriting class can hear their work. Cechin serves as chair of the faculty Student Learning Outcomes Committee.
He says the best parts of his job are: the freedom to be innovative in lesson planning; working with students; and his wonderful colleagues. The most challenging part of his job is the budgetary process. “It's like trying to squeeze lemon juice from a Lemonhead,” he sighs.
Besides hanging out with his girlfriend, family and friends, Cechin enjoys exploring. He has spent months at a time in Mexico and Argentina, but “exploring locally is really fun as well,” he says.