Sierra Firley nearly flunked out of high school. But at SMCC, she has attained a near-perfect academic record with a goal of becoming an English as a Second Language teacher overseas.
Growing up in a poor and troubled household, Sierra says she nearly dropped out of Ellsworth High School because of poor grades. Instead, she transferred to Mount Desert Island High School, where she got middling grades before graduating in 2017.
For college, Sierra initially had her sights on Portland State University in Oregon. But money was an issue, so she came to SMCC and enrolled in the Liberal Studies-English program.
It was the right decision. At SMCC, she came into her own and flourished with the support and encouragement she’s received from professors and staff.
Now she’s giving back that same support by working as a writing tutor in the Learning Commons and for the TRIO program. This semester, she’s also a teaching assistant in six English classes ― on top of taking a full load of classes of her own.
When she graduates next May, Sierra plans to continue her education and earn her bachelor’s degree. In time, she wants to go abroad and teach English as a Second Language (while also writing novels and short stories).
“The thing I love about SMCC is the way the teachers I’ve had have cared about me, even outside of class. I think if I had started at a big university, I would have dropped out. I wouldn’t have gotten the one-on-one fostering I get here. I want to do well, I want to learn, and I want to teach.”
Brian Diamond-Falk, finance to culinary
Brian Diamond-Falk got into the culinary industry knowing all along that he wanted to teach. He worked at fine-dining and high-volume restaurants, in hotels and for caterers before coming to SMCC as a culinary instructor.
After graduating from college, Diamond-Falk worked in a high-stress job in finance at the Chicago Board of Trade. When he got home from work each day, he often unwound and got a little physical activity by cooking.
In time, he realized the only thing he looked forward to at work was getting off so he could go home and cook. From there, he made the leap into the culinary field, earning an associate degree in culinary arts from Le Cordon Bleu culinary school and working at restaurants in his hometown of Chicago.
Diamond-Falk and his wife moved to Maine in 2007, and through the years he worked at restaurants in Portland, Ogunquit and Naples before coming to SMCC in 2018.
“What I love most about teaching is helping students find that piece of the culinary industry that ignites their passion or lights a fire under them.”