Black River Falls
Your Community. Your College.
At Western Technical College in Black River Falls, the education you need is never far away. If you are a high school student looking to get started on your college education, an adult looking to update your workplace skills, or a community member interested in lifelong learning, we have what you need.
An unexpected career change led Kathy Guenther, of Black River Falls, Wis., to what she considers one of the best decisions of her life: returning to college and becoming a nurse. It wasn't easy. In fact, there were times she didn't think she'd make it and wanted to quit. But she persevered. "I did it!" she says. "And I'm so glad."
"Starting over in my career was a very difficult time for me," says Kathy. Plus, she had reservations about returning to college later in life. "I know it's different when you're older," says Kathy. "It doesn't come as fast and it isn't as easy as it might be when you're fresh out of high school." When she looks back now, however, she feels lucky that circumstances happened the way they did. "I didn't think so at the time," she says, "but now I think, 'all things for a reason.' I love what I do. I have more time with my kids than I ever did before."
Kathy first came to Western in 1979. Her older sister had graduated from what was then WWTI. Kathy looked up to her, so she came here, too. Kathy completed the Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) program, but never went into nursing because she was offered a promotion in another business, where she stayed for nearly 29 years. Then, in 2003, changes were made within the company and as a direct result, Kathy found herself facing a career change. Two weeks later, she started college.
Kathy took classes that were needed to get into the Associate Degree Nursing program, including her general studies courses along with the program's prerequisite classes, in Black River Falls. As a mom of four, she appreciated the close proximity to home. "One child was a senior, the others were in elementary school, so I was busy with that," she says. "And I had other family obligations, including caring for my mom, as well as a full-time job as an LPN to help pay for college." Being able to take the majority of her classes in Black River Falls "saved on time and saved on gas."
Some of her program courses were offered in La Crosse, while she had clinical experiences in Viroqua, La Crosse, and Black River Falls. Many courses were offered online as well, which she liked. "The instructors also provided you with tools, like DVDs, CDs, and other learning tools, which helped make it attainable," she says. "When I did have to drive, I just stuck CDs in the player and listened and studied as I drove."
Now she works at Black River Memorial Hospital, where she began as an LPN in 2005, while taking classes. After graduation, she joined the Medical-Surgical team and then moved to the Emergency Department when an opening became available. "It's rewarding," Kathy says. "I learn something new every day from the very best people there. I can't wait to go back to work every day. I love it!"