Thursday, May 17, 2012

Love of writing ended Ruth Dreher's nursing career


A funny thing happened to Ruth Dreher on the way to a promising career in nursing. She fell in love – with English and Literature.

Already in the nursing field as an LPN for 14 years, Dreher was in the process of applying for admission to the RN nursing program at Johnson County Community College when “I got sidetracked at the Writing Center.

“I had taken Comp I at Fort Hays State University and was in the Comp II class and fell in love with Mrs. Erma Teichgarber and her teaching,” says Dreher. “It was probably the right place and the right time. I was recommended as a peer tutor in the Writing Center and found that writing opened up a door of self-expression that I had probably closed for a while. So I went ahead and pursued a completely different curriculum in English and Literature.”

The job in the Writing Center would evolve into a full-time position, a BA in Liberal Arts from Mid-America Nazarene, adjunct teaching at both Johnson County and Kansas City Kansas Community Colleges and a Masters Degree in Liberal Arts with emphasis on Literature from Baker University.

In 2005, she began full-time teaching at KCKCC, from where she’ll retire at the end of the Spring Semester.

“It was one of the hardest decisions ever, I kept going back and forth,” says Dreher. “I just love it here, the culture, the atmosphere, the students. It’s a great place to work.”

Eventually, however, she gave in.

“I want to do some serious writing, painting and grand-mothering,” she says. “As an English teacher, it’s difficult to find serious time to write and paint. You have to stay current with what you’re doing so it’s hard to find long stretches of time where you can really get mentally emerged in something.”

One of Dreher’s favorite projects as instructor of the Children’s Literature class is for each student to write and illustrate a children’s book.

“It can be poetry or an alphabet, concept or story book concept,” she says.

The recipient of various awards for poems and short stories, Dreher’s resume also includes book publications including a couple of children’s books written for her two grandsons – “Little Blue Eyes” for Griffin, now 5; and “Ralph, the Red Engine” for Phineas, 3. And there may be more.

Daughter Tracy and her husband, Patrick, are expecting a third child while daughter Tonya is getting married Memorial Day in Palos Verdes Estates in the Los Angeles area.

As the instructor of the Children’s Literature class at KCKCC, one of Dreher’s class projects is for each student to write and illustrate a children’s book

Dreher has taken art classes at KCKCC and may return to take more this fall.

“I love oil painting,” she says.

Her writing will be directed more to history and of her lineage dating back to the 1700’s when the Queen Catherine of Russia offered farm land to Germans.

"One of the stipulations was that the Germans would not have to serve in the Russian Army but when that changed my ancestors immigrated to the U.S.”

She already has three historical fiction books partially written and can reach back into family folklore of the days the Cossacks came down from the mountains and abducted a great, great uncle.

She may also do some work for a construction firm owned by Joseph Dreher, her husband for the past 39 years, at least until they head west where both daughters are living.

“We’ll probably migrate to California,” she says.

It will be a long way from Hays from where she graduated from Marian, a Catholic high school for girls, and initially attended Fort Hays State before earning an LPN degree from Northwest Central Kansas Area Vocational Technical School.

When, after 14 years of working as an LPN in hospitals and doctor’s offices, she came to Kansas City when her husband was transferred here by Van Doren Industries – and a professional nursing career would change forever.


PHOTO: More books in addition to “Ralph, the Red Engine” will be forthcoming as Ruth Dreher enters retirement after seven years of teaching English and three years of adjunct teaching at Kansas City Kansas Community College. (KCKCC Photo by Alan Hoskins)