Her students may not know that Heather Mayernik provides a safe haven each summer to migrating monarchs, but they benefit as much from her experience and enthusiasm as the butterflies the reading professor nurtures on milkweed in her backyard.
“Macomb students are smart and hardworking, and I look out for them. They are like family to me,” says Mayernik, whose been known to invite passing students she has never met before into her office on South Campus for a chat about their classes. “I know what it means to have a professor mentor you, and I try to do the same for any student who needs it.”
Mayernik’s most valued mentor was the Oakland University professor who helped her navigate academic protocols after exiting the university several years before with enough credits for a master’s in Reading and Language Arts, but without the actual degree.
“Professor Cramer helped me apply for the degree, invited me to serve as his teacher’s assistant and encouraged me to start my Ph.D. program,” relates Mayernik, who is now writing her dissertation and, also, teaching part time at Oakland. “There is no question he changed my life.”
And that, ultimately, led her to Macomb five years ago to teach Reading Strategies and College Success Skills, following a career that began, she notes, as president of her high school’s future teachers club.
“I always knew I wanted to teach,” she says.
A single mom with three children, one a junior at Purdue University, Mayernik has taught at private schools in Grosse Pointe Woods and Detroit, and at Wayne County Community College. She has also structured a professional development program for teachers in Chicago, provided online learning to students displaced by Hurricane Katrina and served as a consultant for the nation’s leading instructional services provider. Mayernik has received two national awards for her teaching, most recently this year from the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development, part of the Community College Leadership Program at the University of Texas at Austin.
But, the passionate teacher, gardener, kayaker and scuba diver believes that, unlike the migrating monarchs who summer in her backyard, she has landed for good.
“I love the College’s philosophy that anyone can come here and change their life,” says Mayernik. “I’ll probably never leave Macomb.”