Brett Kolles: 2019 Outstanding Educator

English instructor named DCTC Outstanding Instructor of the Year

Brett Kolles, English faculty at Dakota County Technical College, is the 2019 DCTC Outstanding Instructor of the Year and the college’s designated Minnesota State Outstanding Educator. Brett represented DCTC as a nominee for the 2019 Minnesota State Board of Trustees Educator of the Year Award for Excellence in Teaching.

As an Outstanding Educator, Brett is invited to attend the 2019 Board of Trustees Awards for Excellence Awards Luncheon April 17, 2019, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel St. Paul.

Brett began teaching at DCTC 10 years ago as an adjunct English instructor. He became full-time faculty in 2010. He teaches a range of courses, including Composition, Short Stories, Technical Writing, Business Writing, Applied Business Writing, Business English, Written Business Communications, and English Essentials. Brett has an M.A. in English from the University of St. Thomas. In 2006, he won the University of St. Thomas Fellowship Award.

“As I’ve gotten to know Brett, I’ve appreciated how much he exemplifies the best qualities of our faculty. He is engaged in both his discipline and in the college and community. He sets high expectations for his students and helps them meet those expectations, and he keeps the larger mission—education for employment—in mind, helping students see how their subjects of study connect to their lives as individuals, workers and community members.”
— Michael Berndt, Interim President, Dakota County Technical College
Brett Kolles and Michael Berndt at veterans event

Brett Kolles and Michael Berndt at veterans event

Brett earned a B.A. in Journalism from St. Thomas; he also completed a Masters of Business Communications certificate at his alma mater as well as a number of Doctorate of Education courses. His commitment to lifelong learning defined his 2018 sabbatical, leading him to compose an official textbook on technical writing for the DCTC Heavy Duty Truck Technology program.

Before beginning his career in higher education, Brett was a highly successful advertising executive. He rose to the level of corporate account executive for the world’s largest direct mail company and worked directly with key accounts, including several Fortune 100 companies. Brett was destined, however, to be a college English instructor. He gained his initial experience in that role as an adjunct English professor at St. Thomas.

One ongoing highlight of Brett’s time on the DCTC campus is his service as faculty advisor to the college’s Lions Club. Brett played an instrumental role in making DCTC the first two-year college to establish a Campus Lions Club in Lions District 5M-6. The college hosted a Charter Night Celebration in November 2010. The club has gone on to shine as a premier student organization at DCTC. Brett and his Lions demonstrate a boundless passion for community service and civic awareness. Brett considers his engagement as the club’s original advisor as one of his most rewarding experiences at the college.

Brett Kolles at DCTC gallery

More about Brett…

Brett has been recognized for his work on and off campus. In 2013, he was named MSCSA Outstanding Instructor of the Year—a significant achievement as LeadMN (formerly MSCSA) represents more than 180,000 students statewide.

DCTC students have shown their appreciation for Brett’s teaching skills by honoring him with 12 Phi Theta Kappa Gold Awards during his teaching career at the college. He has served as the keynote speaker at two PTK induction ceremonies on campus. He has also served as guest speaker at two Practical Nursing pinning ceremonies.

Brett Kolles personifies the dedication and inventiveness exhibited by exceptionally talented educators. His endless enthusiasm for lifelong learning and community participation is an inspiration to his students, who view him as a role model for enduring success in their chosen career fields. Brett’s love for learning and service is an essential element in advancing the DCTC mission: Education for Employment.

Brett Kolles Q & A

Brett Kolles

Brett Kolles

What is your teaching philosophy?
Education is not filling a bucket; it’s lighting a fire. I’ve always loved this insight often credited to William Butler Yeats. He nails it. As an instructor, you only have a finite amount of time in the classroom to teach. Inspiring a student to keep learning past final grade submission is what quality teaching is all about.

What do you love most about teaching?
My favorite moments are when I run into students years after they graduate, and they stop and tell me how much they loved DCTC. It really makes me feel proud of what we do and where we work.

Why should students learn how to write effectively?
We’re living in the communication age, and the bittersweet truth is that we are often judged by the words we choose. This can be put to one’s advantage if a person hones his or her writing ability. Developing writing as a skill set will not only help a person professionally but also personally.

What are the highlights of your time as Campus Lions Club faculty advisor?
The Chili Cook Off is the quick answer as that has become a DCTC tradition. However, I think the highlight is really the lifelong relationships I have seen develop among student Lions. Somehow when you work as a team on a community project such as Habitat for Humanity or the Ronald McDonald House, it galvanizes the relationships of those who share in the experience.

What is one thing every college instructor should know? Probably this: Students want to know first how much you care before they care how much you know.

Learn more about English courses and the Lions Club at DCTC by contacting:

Brett Kolles
English Faculty
Campus Lions Club Faculty Co-Advisor
Lions Club Blog
DCTC Lions Club on Facebook