By Jessica Daniel
“I see myself as a companion in the learning process as Aristotle saw himself to Alexander the Great,” said Tim Watters, as he explained that teaching is handing over knowledge.
Raised in the deep South of Aiken, South Carolina, Watters, a faculty member of Whatcom Community College since July 2002, teaches philosophy, world religions, communication, and interdisciplinary studies.
Watters has a triple bachelor’s degree in English, history and philosophy, and a Master’s in theology, civil law and European civil law. He plays the organ, and enjoys house renovating, parties, cooking, and weight training with low impact aerobics.
Watters enjoys teaching for what he sees in the students’ eyes. “That they get it; I enjoy what they teach me of life,” he said, calling Whatcom students the birth of our “future present.”
“Each student is in a rite of passage from the time of limited responsibility, to an age of informed leadership, leaving childhood behind,” Watters said. “The pressures upon them to meet this challenge are increasing exponentially as the nation struggles with an era of decline.”
Watters wants the students to understand the pressures in the real world. “If you’re not the one getting it, then you’ll be left behind,” Watters said.
During class, Watters encourages the students to get up in front of the class and explain to their peers what they’re discussing that day. By having a student do this, it shows them the pressure and competition of others, and pushes them to realize their potential.
“Instead of slowing down the tempo, we have to speed it up and put pressure on students to see what has been here all along, but never grabbed their attention,” Watters said. “It is a challenge we must accept. It’s not easy to broaden horizons.”
Watters said that every generation must do this, so the next generation can be succeeded, not replaced. “I try to refocus the students’ eyes on the larger ‘now’ then they have in their line of sight,” Watters said.
The Chinese have an ancient saying, said Watters, “The eyes are blind when the mind is elsewhere.”
“No one person can fulfill one duty,” Watters said. “It takes all of us together as a consciously formed community to be true to our national identity and purpose.”
Shane Everbeck is a student in Watters’ philosophy class. “He really cares and is a great teacher,” he said. “This class is really mind opening.”
Watters considers himself a professor of reality checks. “Students are leaving the arena of fairy tales, and becoming the authors of folk tales,” he said.
However, a major difference between the students and Watters is the life experience. “This I have to share,” Watters said. “This they have to acquire.”
Maddie Schatz is a student in Watters’ world religions class. “He’s a smart guy and knows what he’s talking about,” she said. “He’s a good teacher and is really laid back. That’s what I like about him.”
Watters spoke of the faculty, administrators and staff at Whatcom as an impressive crew. “They come together; there is no competition between them,” he said. Everyone wants the best for their colleagues.”
“Teaching is handing over knowledge and mentoring is the handing over of understanding,” Watters said. “This college does both. It is how future leaders are made.”
“The stars of this institution are the students. They are very intelligent; perhaps more than I am,” he added.
Recently in the hospital for eight days, starting with a diagnosis of the flu and leading to congestive heart, kidney and liver failure, Watters’ life was at risk.
He said the faculty sent letters and gave the students a chance to write cards and notes wishing for his health.
Kathi Hiyane-Brown, the President of Whatcom sent a heartfelt message of concern, along with Kim Reeves, a faculty member, encouraging people to send him chocolates, Watters said. Students and faculty came to visit him, “It was very uplifting,” he said.
The experience in the hospital left Watters with a new realization of fear. He said he does not fear death or the fear of dying, but rather the fear that a stranger will close his eyes in death.
“I want students to be my revenge on death,” Watters said. “The dead live on in the memory of the living.”
Something that Watters wishes to accomplish at Whatcom is to be deemed creditable, he said. “I’m not perfect or free from error, but I want to earn the students’ conscious trust, not the habitual trust they bring with them through the door.”
“If I am creditable, they will listen,” said Watters.
A dream of Watters is to win the lottery and invest the money in a foundation for the arts and humanities that will provide for the future through the present.
“Becoming comfortable with who I am not, and never will be; being comfortable in my own skin,” is what Watters is most proud of. He then quoted Plotinus. “The soul that beholds beauty becomes beautiful.”
Watters had a word of advice for students. “When you are 20, you worry what everyone thinks of you. When you are 40, you don’t care what anyone thinks about you. When you hit 60, very few have been thinking about you anyway.”
“So stop giving away your power to those who don’t even want it,” he said. “Learn what pleases you first; you may just learn your destiny.”