PDCCC graduation speaker top student

Published 10:06 am Friday, May 6, 2011

Serving as Paul D. Camp Community College student ambassadors, Sally Rensch, left, and Gloria Herndon assist during the 2010 commencement exercises. Rensch will be the student speaker for this yearÕs graduation on Friday, May 13. SUBMITTED/WENDY HARRISON


FRANKLIN—Sally Rensch is not your typical student.

To start with, Rensch is a 47-year-old mother of three who will graduate summa cum laude. She also will be the student speaker during Paul D. Camp Community College’s commencement on Friday, May 13.

The Carrsville resident completed her studies last fall and has been attending Chowan University since January, where she is majoring in elementary education.

While working as an instructional assistant at Carrsville Elementary School, Rensch received recommendations to earn her degree from colleagues and supervisors.

The suggestion did not fall on deaf ears. She was providing early intervention to kindergartners who needed assistance with phonemic awareness skills at the elementary school. However, she had other people to consider.

“Because I have a son with high-functioning autism, I was uncertain that I could make the commitment of going back to school when his educational future was the main priority,” Rensch said.

Once his academic plan was established, Rensch knew the time was right.

“It’s because of him that I have chosen to go into the field of education,” she said. “I have gained a level of empathy for all people who learn differently. It should be no secret that everyone who wants to learn also wants to be treated with respect. However, not all people are meant to work with individuals who have different learning abilities.”

Expectantly, Rensch found it difficult to juggle all of the responsibilities, that now included being a student, and had to make some adjustments.

“I am what some people would call a ‘giver,’” she said. “But I found myself becoming so overwhelmed at times that I had to give up some things and start saying ‘no’ to people.”

Balancing home and school life was the most difficult for Rensch because her family depended on her for many things.

“The important thing is to have a good support system behind you and a husband who is willing to do some housework,” she said. “Communication is the key. Remember to always talk to each other.”

Rensch believes had she gone to college sooner, she wouldn’t have taken it as seriously.

“With age comes wisdom,” she said. “If I had gone to college 28 years ago, I would have been lost and wouldn’t have cared.”

“Over the years, I have looked down on myself for not having a college education,” Rensch added. “I now know that I was just building years of prior knowledge, so that I could appreciate how much I love learning and how much I want to share that with others.”

While at PDCCC, Rensch was active in Student Support Services, served as a Student Ambassador and was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. As an ambassador, she volunteered with the 2010 graduation, the PDCCC Foundation’s Golf Tournament and the foundation’s Antique Car and Truck Show.

She is a member of Bethany Presbyterian Church in Zuni and participates occasionally in the choir. She performs during church services and has sung for other churches and during an Isle of Wight Mission of Hope fundraiser.

At Chowan, Rensch belongs to the North Carolina Student Teacher Association and is involved in its Relay for Life team. In addition, she is a member of the Chowan Chorus.

“I also will always be raising awareness for autism and advocating for children with special needs” Rensch said.

She will graduate from PDCCC with her associate in arts and science degree in general studies and is scheduled to graduate with a bachelor’s degree from Chowan in May 2013.

“I’m still toying with the idea of getting my master’s degree,” Rensch said. “My goal is to be the most effective teacher, and to not only encourage them to do well in school, but also to teach them to be caring, moral and productive members of society.”

Sally and her husband, John, are the parents of Jillian, 25; Elizabeth, 21; and Carson, 19.