Former Grad Miriam Holtzclaw Offers Unique Perspective to Students
After graduating from OFTC’s Accounting program with an Associate degree and furthering her education to obtain both a bachelor’s and master’s degree, Miriam Holtzclaw found herself back in the classroom where it all began.
“I have wanted to teach since I was a small child and I love OFTC because this is where I started,” Holtzclaw said. “So, teaching at OFTC was the perfect marriage of my passions – teaching, accounting, and OFTC!”
And since then, Holtzclaw’s used her love for accounting and her experience as a former student to impact the lives of her students as they progress toward their own career goals.
Q: Tell me a little about your background in accounting?
A: I started my accounting career at OFTC as a student in the Accounting Degree Program. While I was at OFTC I was fortunate enough to be nominated for, and to win, the Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership, the prize for which was a scholarship to DeVry University. Just after my graduation at OFTC, and as I was starting my bachelor’s degree at DeVry, I was honored to be hired at the local public accounting firm TJS Deemer Dana, LLP. I spent the next two and a half years working in the Tax and Small Business department, gaining extensive hands-on experience in multiple areas of accounting. It was also during this time that I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in Technical Management (Accounting) from DeVry. In early 2017, I was informed that the Accounting Instructor position at OFTC had opened. Being that teaching has always been my long-term goal, I applied and was delighted when I learned I was coming back to OFTC! Since being at OFTC, I have completed my master’s degree in Accounting and I look forward to the work ahead!
Q: What do you love about teaching Accounting?
A: I love the “balance” of accounting (pun intended). There is a beautiful symmetry to accounting due to the foundational principle of accounting, known to accountants as the “Accounting Equation,” which gives rise to the notion that there must be equality in all things. To use some of the dreaded accounting terms (that everyone comes into class already despising), Debits must always equal Credits. There is almost always a way to double check your work, and usually right in the problem you are working! Another reason I love teaching accounting is because I love to teach it from a more non-traditional approach. It is said that Accounting is the language of business. How can one communicate in a language with which they are not familiar? I teach accounting from the point of learning it like learning to speak and write in another language. Just as with any language, accounting has its own vocabulary, syntax, context, even grammar! You must learn all of these before you can hope to truly understand accounting. Yes, we use numbers to tell our stories, but if they are not written in the rules of the “Accounting language,” no one can read them and they are of no use.
Q: Why is teaching something you love to do?
A: I love the creative side of teaching. Learning is different for everyone, so as a teacher it is my job to find a multitude of ways to teach my students. I love creating assignments, designing Excel spreadsheets, preparing lessons, and even grading assignments. Learning has always been my passion and teaching, I believe, is a natural extension of that passion. Additionally, unlike many people, I love public speaking. I love talking with people, I love sharing with people. I grew up watching my parents teach in various capacities, so I guess it’s genetic! As my sister told me when I shared with her that I was coming back to teach at OFTC, “Well, you’ve been teaching anything that would sit still long enough to listen since you were five, so…I think you’ll be fine.”
Q: What do you love most about working with students?
A: I love what we call the “ah-ha!” moment! I love to watch students who think they cannot do something begin to do it and do it correctly. In my classes, I do not allow the word “can’t” to be spoken. A lesson I learned from my husband – “there is no ‘I can’t,’ there is simply ‘I can’t yet.’” When a student says, “I can’t do this!” I immediately remind them that it’s not that they can’t, just that they can’t yet. I love to remind my students just how far they have come, as looking back allows them to see how much they have learned, earned, and achieved.
Q: Why does the Accounting field make for a good career?
A: The first reason would be the extraordinarily low unemployment rate for accountants. The sick will always need doctors, businesses will always need accountants. In the 2nd quarter of 2019 the unemployment rate for accountants and auditors was 1.5%. It is an old, well-known, and established profession that is generally well-respected in most circles. Furthermore, the demand for accounting professionals will only increase in the coming years. And, because there is always a need, a job for an accountant can generally be found in most areas in which you might wish to live.
Q: How do you think someone can know that Accounting careers may be something they would enjoy as a career?
A: The first thing people say to me when they learn I am an accountant is generally, “You must be so good at math!” What people don’t understand is that while there is math involved in accounting, there is so much more. Just being good at math isn’t enough. You have to like puzzle and problem solving, as Accounting is as much about finding the discrepancies as it is anything else. If you are analytical, detail-oriented, like working independently but can also work with a customer if needed, and of course like numbers, then accounting may be for you! I tell my students often, think less “math” and more “foreign language with a numerical alphabet.”
Q: Having been an OFTC student, do you think your perspective can make an impact on the students you teach?
A: Absolutely, it does. I do my best to let my past experiences help me make the best environment I can for my students. As I one day hoped to teach, I took note throughout my time as a student of what I would do the same or differently as a teacher. I do as much as I can to help my students succeed. I also understand what it’s like to be a parent, student, and employee, so I can empathize. I remember the long and sleepless nights, the unending weekends of work, my children asking why I was still doing homework. I try to be as understanding as I can with my students, knowing that life happens and sometimes there is just no getting away from that.
Q: What is your advice to those who might be struggling with the idea of either starting college for the first time or changing careers?
A: The hardest part is getting started. Fear of the unknown often stops us from doing the very thing we need to do. The best thing you can do is to come in and talk with us! Whatever program you may be interested in, we are here to talk with you. And if we cannot answer your questions, we will surely find someone who can. Is starting something new scary? Yes. But in the end, it is far more rewarding than it could ever be scary. And remember – this is not a race and you are not competing with anyone. You are making a change for your life and no one else’s. Start small and go slowly if needed, just keep moving!
Q: What do you love most about OFTC?
A: One of the things I love most about OFTC is our student population. For many of our students, they may be the first in their family to go to college. They might be needing to change careers. Whatever the case, they have a story and that story drives them! They set their sights on the goal of a better life through further education and they do all they can to succeed! I also love our smaller classes that allow for more individual attention. I love for my students to ask questions and have group discussions. I love that technical college focuses on the hands-on experience and training. We do all we can to prepare our students, not just to complete tasks, but for their new career!
Q: Why do you think OFTC is a valid option for someone considering college?
A: OFTC is an option for everything. Even if you choose to eventually go to another school for your program, the tuition at OFTC provides quality education at an unbeatable price and is a great place to start. The degree core classes (Math, English, Science, etc.) taken at OFTC can be transferred to any university in the state of Georgia. We have a large selection of programs, so there is a program for everyone. Dual enrollment for high school students offers students a chance to graduate high school with college credit or even a certificate or diploma. OFTC may not be the end of your journey, but it is a great place to start!
Q: Would you like to share some info about your family?
A: I would not be where I am without my amazing husband, Jason. It was his strong encouragement that led me to enroll at OFTC. It was he who took care of our children (and everything else) while I had to study and complete assignments. Without his constant help and support, I would never have made it. He has been my biggest cheerleader for more than a decade and I am so thankful to have him. My children have been a constant source of encouragement and inspiration. Even as little babies, they would come and sit beside me “doing their homework” (coloring) as I did my own work. They have sacrificed time with me as well. I only hope that my commitment to my education and drive to succeed will inspire my children to do the same.
Holtzclaw is from Wrightsville and currently lives in Sandersville with her husband Jason and their two children. She teaches Accounting classes at OFTC’s Dublin campus.