As an environmental technician, Tracy Knowles has sampled and analyzed plant tissues, toxic metals, carbon dioxide concentrations, radioactive particles and organic contaminants. Deeply entrenched in the research aspect of environmental science, Knowles was in the process of getting her doctorate in environmental chemistry at Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs when she came across an opportunity to teach some courses at Ivy Tech, the local community college. Though she had planned to maybe teach at a university level someday, teaching at the community college level opened a world of possibilities for Knowles.
“I fell in love with it,” she said. “I realized that I enjoyed breaking down complex topics into understandable pieces and working with students for whom science was difficult.”
When Knowles saw Bluegrass Community and Tehchnical College (then LCC) was looking for someone to teach chemistry and train environmental technicians, she realized it was a perfect match. Having never spent time in Kentucky before then, she left her Ph.D. track to take the job and has “loved every day since.”
Knowles has been honored with a number of prestigious awards in her decade-long teaching career, including the 2009 Kentucky Professor of the Year Award. (Knowles is the second community college professor to receive the award in its history.) She also received the New Horizons Faculty Award of Excellence in 2008 and the BCTC Faculty Excellence Award in 2008.
“I love seeing students get excited when they finally master a difficult concept,” she said. “I also love helping students get involved with the environmental community. I especially enjoy running into them every year with their families, still planting trees and volunteering around Lexington.”