Heavy Duty Diplomacy

Jason Prondzinski | Heavy Duty Truck Technology Alumnus

As the day-shift shop foreman at I-State Truck Center in Inver Grove Heights, Minn., Jason Prondzinski, 31, supervises as many as 18 technicians servicing Freightliners equipped with long-haul truckers anxious to get back on the road. Prondzinski reports that solid communication skills and diplomacy are a huge part of his job.

“I see myself as a translator because I’m the communications link between the technician, the driver, the service writer, the parts supplier and the front office,” he said, “and they don’t always speak the same language.”

Prondzinski, who owns 15 acres of deer-rich woodlands near Kenyon, Minn., his hometown, is a graduate of the Heavy Duty Truck Technology program. About once a year, he returns to DCTC to speak to current students, stressing the importance of lifelong learning. At any given time, Prondzinski carries up to 40 certifications—all requiring regular renewal.

For more information about Heavy Duty Truck Technology at DCTC, contact:

Like Mother, Like Daughter

Shawrene Rance and Mary Jane Weltmer | Child Development Alumnas

Mary Jane Weltmer, 62, and Shawrene Rance, 38, work together at the Kinderplatz Childcare & Education Center in the Whipple Federal Building at Fort Snelling. Weltmer and Rance also happen to be mother and daughter.

“My mom and I are the third generation of mothers and daughters to work together,” said Rance, who teaches pre-kindergarten children at Kinderplatz. Rance and her mother, a program coordinator and lead teacher, teach together in the same class, the Golden Monarch Butterflies. Both started at Kinderplatz on the same day in 1995. “Mom worked with her mother, and my grandmother worked with my great grandmother.”

Rance graduated from the DCTC Child Development program with her A.S. degree in 2008. She is taking electives at Bethel University with plans to start as an undergrad in fall 2011 or spring 2012. Her exemplary teaching skills were recognized by the 2010 Terri Lynne Lokoff/Children’s TYLENOL® National Child Care Teacher Award for “Drama and Storytelling with the Monarch Classroom.”

Weltmer is also a DCTC alumna, graduating with an A.A.S. degree in 2009. Rance started at Kinderplatz in 1995 on the same day as her mother. Weltmer overcame the challenge of dyslexia to not only become a superb college student, but also a wonderful teacher with a gift for coordinating child education programs. She looks at her time at DCTC as crucial to her professional development and gives a lot of credit to her instructors, who made learning fun and engaging.

“Going to school together was a unique opportunity,” said Rance, who graduated with honors as did her mother as members of Phi Theta Kappa. “We were natural study partners. It was fun to do homework together and cheer each other on when one of us was frustrated or struggling. She is one of my greatest mentors.”

Marianna Kähkönen, Kinderplatz executive director, believes the standard of an early childhood development program is best measured by the interactions and relationships between teachers and children. “Mary Jane and Shawrene not only provide meaningful, quality interactions with children throughout each day,” she said, “but they also teach by respecting each other as teachers, as coworkers, and as mother and daughter.”

On a related note, the Child Development program is becoming the Early Childhood and Youth Development program fall 2011 to enhance articulation pathways and respond to changes in the field.

For more information about the Early Childhood and Youth Development program, contact:
  • Jill Behnke
    Early Childhood and Youth Development Instructor
  • Dawn Braa
    Early Childhood and Youth Development Instructor
Or read the Early Childhood and Youth Development blog

A Career in Sharp Focus

Tom Lukken | Photography Alumnus

At 23, Tom Lukken is already taking off as a professional photographer. That might seem young, but Lukken actually launched his career some 14 years ago when as an 8-year-old he received his first point-and-shoot camera. He loved the fact that he was able to freeze time and capture memories that might otherwise be forgotten.

“I have almost my entire life photographed in some way or form,” he said. “So I can literally sift through images and see everything, which is awesome. That’s what really got me hooked.”

Regarding advice for up-and-coming photographers, Lukken has this to say: “If you’re truly looking to pick up photography and be good at it, always have a camera on you because you never know when that one shot’s going to come up. When I was at DCTC, a few good buddies from school and I would go on photo adventures every other day. We’d go to the Cities, we’d go to the woods, we would just shoot and then critique each other’s work—and then we would improve on it. I would shoot from a hundred to a thousand images a day. Every time you take one image you’re getting better because you know what not to do the next time.”

Lukken highly recommends going to school for photography, not just for the teachers and what you’ll learn from them, but from the intense competition with fellow student photographers. “There’s nothing like being in a classroom with other people and the camaraderie of pushing each other. It’s the only way I got better.”

As for his chosen industry, Tom Lukken couldn’t be more pleased with the openness and cooperation shown by his peers. “The new wave, the new era is pushing photographers to band together to keep the industry strong,” he said. “They’re all about sharing. If you have a question and they can answer it, they will. They’re just great people.”

Social media on the job | Tom Lukken powers his business with tools that are both free and powerful
For more information about Photography and Photographic Imaging Technology at DCTC, contact: