When Benjamin Ringgenberg was an adult student trying to graduate college for the first time, a teacher inspired him and changed his life. Now he wants to help others the same way.
“I started college and stalled in my 20s, so I went into sales,” he said. “Sales was very lucrative, and I worked with a lot of the computer programs that are industry standards now, like Salesforce, when they were just getting started. But I realized at 29 that I needed to make a career change. I was good at sales, but sales was tough! It’s an industry that I wasn’t sure I could survive in. It wasn’t right. But if I was going to change careers, how could I make myself marketable?”
He went back to college and was impressed by his community college professors. One, in particular, really helped him. “She got me over the humps when I was struggling and unsteady on my feet at school. She got me into tutoring, and made me her TA, and really inspired me to think that I could help struggling students too.”
He’s worked with college students and elementary school students, and today he likes to say he’s taught students from ages seven to 77. He learned about technology, but most of all, he learned how to support people.
Now a professor at Calbright, Benjamin’s official job is to help students with their technical questions in the IT Support and CRM Platform Administration programs. But he said that most of the time, students don’t have technical questions, they have studying questions and life questions.
“The most common things I talk to students about aren’t how the programs work, it’s about how they can make studying work in a life full of adult responsibilities,” he said. “We’ll talk about the technical stuff, but what they really want support with is: ‘How do I stay motivated? How do I make this work in my life?’ ‘How do I remember what I’m learning?’ ‘How do I keep going?’”
Those are conversations he loves to have. “A lot of times, counselors send me students who are thinking about quitting and need someone to help them get back on their feet.”
“What I talk to a lot of students about are things like study habits,” he said. “A lot of it is based around people learning how to organize what’s important, how to approach it, and how to parse out things that are new to you. Some students just need a refresher on this stuff, because it’s been so long since they were in school. But a lot of my higher needs students actually had a trauma point in school earlier in life where they lost their footing. Something happened, there was an educational trauma that happened in middle school or high school, and they started losing ground. So I can help them pick that up where they left off, offering methods for things like reading comprehension or retention, and it opens them right up. It makes sense to them! And they’ll say ‘why did I never try that before?’ and I’ll say ‘probably because no one told you! It’s okay.’ And they’ll email me later to say that now they’re getting through the sections. It’s really great.”
Benjamin came to Calbright because he’s passionate about its mission.
“Today we live in an environment where, if you have an internet connection and the right education, you can go from making $20,000 a year and not being able to pay your rent, to making $60,000 a year and being able to pay your rent. Being able to get new shoes for your kids,” he said. “I want to be the link for people who want to do more for themselves and just don’t have the tools. I want to give them the tools, and help. People want to do these jobs in IT and Salesforce, they just haven’t had the opportunity to get there. We can give them that opportunity!”
He adds, “Every day I’m telling someone: you can do it, and here’s a tool you can use to get there. And every day, that just fills me up.”