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Celebrating 40 years of teaching at Midland CollegeAugust 14, 2019

The image to use for this article. Listing image managed through RSS tab. Dale Westfall

“Dr. Al Langford was a builder and made the rules; Dr. Steve Thomas has brought the college into the 21st century by creating new avenues for student learning,” said Midland College (MC) Accounting Professor Dale Westfall.

Westfall has worked for Midland College when Dr. Langford served as the first president, during the current administration led by MC President Dr. Steve Thomas and all years in between, also serving under former presidents Dr. Jess Parrish and Dr. David Daniel.  Westfall just celebrated 40 years of working full-time at Midland College.  Prior to becoming a full-time faculty member, Westfall taught MC business courses as an adjunct (part-time) instructor during the 1970s in Big Lake, TX.

“I started teaching high school business courses at Reagan County High School in Big Lake in 1971 right after I graduated from West Texas State University [now West Texas A&M],” explained Westfall. “I literally walked across the street from my childhood home in Canyon to attend college. Canyon is a small town, so when I was offered a teaching position in Big Lake, I was happy to be in another small town.

“My annual salary when I began teaching was $6,500, and the school district offered teacher housing for $25 a month. It was actually fun. I taught business courses, and there were other young teachers working in Big Lake.  We would get together several times a week, often driving to San Angelo.”

In the early 1970s, when Midland College officials began looking for someone to teach business courses on a part-time basis in Big Lake in order to meet requests from local residents, Westfall answered the call. 

“I taught two nights a week--everything from shorthand to accounting,” said Westfall. “I used the extra money I was earning from teaching MC courses to make the payments on my new car. I was young and had never taught college before. All Midland College gave me were the textbooks—I never had a syllabus; no one ever told me I needed one, and no one ever told me how long the classes should run. So, we would start at 5:00 in the evening and finish about 10:00. We took a short break for dinner—everyone would bring potluck. Those students spent about 9 ½ hours in one class each week all semester. No one complained—everyone just thought that was how long the class was supposed to run (including me). In fact, I taught the entire business law book in one semester. I didn’t know that it was designed to cover two semesters!”

Westfall explained that the people in Big Lake were eager to learn, and they were some of the best students he ever had.

“Midland College had a policy that there had to be ten people registered in order for the class to be held,” stated Westfall. “If we only had eight or nine students, everyone would ‘pitch in’ and pay for husbands and friends to take the class so that we would have the required ten students. I never saw the husbands and friends. They would drop the class after about a month—after the ‘census date’ for the class. So the class would be held and go on as usual. We couldn’t get away with doing that now, but it worked in Big Lake, Texas in the 1970s. What happens in Big Lake, stays in Big Lake!”

In 1979, Midland College was looking for a full-time business instructor, and Westfall applied for the job. 

“My job interview was conducted over the phone, and I was immediately hired,” explained Westfall. “Since I had less seniority than the other business faculty, I was stuck teaching four nights a week and had to teach a business law course at 8:00 in the morning. I hated it. Students didn’t want to take my class—there was another teacher who was extremely popular. I was pretty miserable at first and thought I had made a huge mistake. The only good thing was I finally got the course syllabi and discovered that I didn’t have to teach a class for as long as I had been doing in Big Lake. I also found out that I could cover the business law textbook in two semesters instead of just one!”

Fortunately, for Westfall and for Midland College, after his first semester teaching full time at MC, students discovered that he was an excellent instructor. His classes began to fill up quickly and Westfall made close friends with other faculty. He started to enjoy living in Midland and working at Midland College. 

Westfall has a Bachelor of Business Administration degree and a Master of Business Education degree from West Texas A&M. In addition, he has acquired 30+ graduate hours in accounting from various universities—mostly the University of North Texas. 

In his spare time, Westfall enjoys traveling. In 1999, he spent several weeks in Hungary with two former MC teachers. The group lived in dorms and taught conversational English to students at a university in Egar, Hungary.

“Most of these students knew more proper English than we did,” laughed Westfall. “Our job was just to get them to practice speaking English. I would have my group in class during the morning, and then the students would take me on tours of the city and give me the history of the region, speaking only in English, of course. On the weekends, the president of the university and his assistant would take us to visit other cities in Hungary and the surrounding countries—Poland, Austria, Slovakia, Croatia. We stayed in the dorms at universities on those weekend trips. We didn’t get paid, but we got a room, one meal a day and great weekend trips!”

As can be seen by his office, Dale is a self-professed “collector.” (He is quick to explain that the term is “collector”—not “hoarder.”) He has bird cages, clocks, art, matchbooks and marbles that he has acquired over the years, many from his travels. He also enjoys old movies and theater. Hiking, snorkeling, tennis and bowling are his sports of his choice. In addition, he is fascinated by the Mexican tradition of Dia de los Muertos. Westfall has several sugar skulls, skeletons, colorful paper flowers and ritual displays in his home that honor his deceased relatives and friends.

While he has taught all sorts of business subjects at Midland College—typing on an IBM Selectric typewriter, shorthand, business law, etc.—today, he primarily teaches transfer accounting courses. 

“I still teach bank reconciliation in my Principles of Accounting I course,” said Westfall. “It dawned on me not long ago when I was using an old check that I wrote in 1994 as an example that most of my students probably don’t even write checks anymore.  Everything is done electronically via debit cards and automatic transfers. One of my students pointed out the fact that the check I was using as an example was written before he was born!”

Westfall has always excelled in teaching in a traditional, face-to-face environment, and many of his former students have said that his accounting courses were the best courses they took during their college career. He used an overhead projector long after other instructors had gone to PowerPoint presentations, and still he was one of the college’s most effective faculty members. This past spring, he decided it was time to embrace technology, and so he converted his Principles of Accounting II course to a hybrid courses, meaning that most of the course is taught online, but there is still a face-to-face component.

“I don’t know if I could ever give up actually meeting my students face to face,” said Westfall.

Dale Westfall truly enjoys getting to know his students and being involved in student life on campus. He attends all Midland College athletic events and usually has athletes in his classes. It is not unusual for Westfall to stay in his classroom and tutor a group of students after the class has dismissed.  When walking past his office, one can often see him explaining a hard-to-grasp accounting concept to a student. 

During the past 40 years Westfall has remained one of Midland College’s most dedicated professors, and he shows no signs of stopping. He truly embraces the community college mission of effective teaching and student-centered learning. Midland College alumni who are now successful business people fondly recall the accounting principles taught by Dale Westfall at Midland College.

“I love teaching!” exclaimed Westfall.  “At the beginning of each semester, I’m just as excited as I was when I first started teaching in Big Lake. It doesn’t seem like 40 years.”

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