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Sound Bites - Issue 27 - November 2015

On the Cover 
Nicola McGee – The Butterfly Effect?

Nicola McGee holds a bird-proof cage that protects butterfly eggs and chrysalisNicola McGee

Nicola in garden with birdcageNicola McGee holds a bird-proof cage that protects butterfly eggs and chrysalis

"Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you."  ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

It seems appropriate that Nicola McGee raises butterflies. Her simple life of teaching, gardening, and raising the beautiful flying insects makes her happy.

And "The Butterfly Effect" – in which the details of a hurricane (exact time of formation, exact path taken) can be influenced by minor perturbations such as the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly several weeks earlier – could also be a metaphor for McGee: Her modest act of teaching has global repercussions.

McGee, who has been an instructor of Accent Reduction and Practical Conversational English at SMC Community Ed for five years, has four decades of experience teaching students from around the world in English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL).

She received a bachelor's degree in Latin American literature and a certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language, both from UCLA, and a master's in Applied Linguistics from Cal State Northridge.

Is there an anecdote you can share about your teaching experiences and/or students? Any surprises?

Once I was showing a Japanese student my favorite flower in the garden, called 'Japanese anemone.' When she heard the name, she looked very sad then she asked, "Why is it named 'Japanese Enemy'?"  So maybe I'm the one who needs the Accent Reduction class. 

Tell us briefly about the kinds of students you get in your classes.

My students come from all over the world, from a wide variety of backgrounds and language skills, and have a range of accents from heavy to hardly noticeable. I've had actors, singers (including, recently, a famous actor/singer from Korea), software engineers, public school teachers and principals, au pairs and more. Most come to my classes for professional reasons so they are motivated.

Students have praised you for your patience.  What is the source of that patience?  

When I was a Latin American literature undergraduate at UCLA, I spent  close to two years studying in Mexico:  so I know how difficult it is to learn to speak, read and write another language.  Reading "Madame Bovary" in Spanish, wasn't easy. I really know in my bones what my students are living.   

Tell us one to three things that most people don't know about you.

One of the things I love to tell my students, it tickles them, is that one of my grandmothers was an ESL teacher and  the other, who was Polish, was an ESL student.

After teaching, gardening and raising butterflies are two of my passions. (I don't keep butterflies captive. Instead I collect larvae from my garden and put them in a bird-proof cage, where they turn into chrysali. As soon as the butterflies emerge, I set them free in my garden.)

 Also, on my father's side, I am a fifth-generation Californian.

What's the craziest thing you've ever done?

I'll get back to you on that one. 

What do you like about teaching at SMC Community Ed?

The students, the students, and did I mention the students. This is the voice of 40 years of experience speaking. Teaching them is a privilege and a joy.

What is your idea of a perfect day?

A day of gardening and teaching, I am truly blessed.

What's New
Open House Jan. 23--Discounts and Goodies!

Alice Meyering

from the desk of Alice Meyering
I'm already looking ahead to the New Year – January in particular – because of some exciting things that will be happening with Community Ed (actually, I'm looking even farther ahead as I plan the Spring Schedule, but that's a story for another time).

Aside from opening our Winter Session Jan. 4 with a substantial 25 percent increase in class offerings over a year ago, we're going to host a greatly expanded version of the Open House that we inaugurated in January of this year. That informal Open House was a meet-and-greet in our office after inviting students and prospective students to drop by. The response was so great we decided to go bigger and better this coming January.

So, on Saturday, Jan. 23 we invite you to join us to get a preview of spring offerings, meet instructors, observe a class in action, and enjoy mini-presentations and demonstrations. And best of all, you'll get a 15 percent discount on spring classes if you register at the event.

Scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Open House will be held in Room 123 (the community meeting room) at the Bundy campus, 3171 S. Bundy Ave., Los Angeles.

Although the Open House will be geared toward the Spring Session, now is the time to think about our Winter offerings. Aside from adding a whole lineup of new courses, workshops and even a design lecture series, we're fine tuning our program to give you what could, in some ways, be considered a luxury experience at very reasonable cost.

What do I mean by luxury? No, we don't provide free massages and Louis Vuitton gift bags to students. But we do offer small classes, allowing for more individual attention. In fact, we're taking individual attention to a new level this winter by offering "One-on-One" piano classes (ages 5 to adult) at SMC's renowned Performing Arts Center (attached to the beautiful Broad Stage).

Rather than give you a litany of the classes, workshops, tours and more this winter, I urge you to go to our newly redesigned website and let yourself wander through our multiple listings. (We have also posted a PDF version of the Winter Class Schedule if you prefer to browse that way.) You might surprise yourself by registering for a class you never thought you would – and opening doors to new skills, passions and talents.

We're also happy to assist you if you call us at (310) 434-3400 or email us at

Happy Thanksgiving!

Healthy Thanksgiving Recipe: Ginger Kabocha- Okra

Ayurveda instructor and cookbook author Lois LeonhardiAyurveda instructor and cookbook author Lois Leonhardi

Lois Leonhardi knows more than just a little about healthy living. A longtime yoga practitioner and instructor, she teaches classes at SMC Community Ed on Ayurveda – the sister science to yoga and an ancient holistic system of medicine from India still practiced today. The basic Ayurveda principles are geared toward bringing balance through diet and lifestyle choices.

Author of "The Essential Ayurvedic Cookbook," she has submitted for our great pleasure a healthy, Ayurvedic recipe for Thanksgiving – certainly a huge improvement over, say, canned sweet potatoes.


Ginger Kabocha-Okra for Thanksgiving

Kabocha and okra are abundant in the fall and are ideal for grounding vata. You can eat the skin of the kabocha, but make sure it is "organic" to avoid pesticide contamination. Serve as a side dish along with cranberry sauce to add to your holiday spread!

Serves 4 as a side dish.

Preheat oven 450 degrees F

  • 1 organic kabocha squash (about 1 lb.)
  • 1-inch ginger root, peeled, chopped
    1 garlic clove, pressed
  • ¼ teaspoon Himalayan salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoon ghee, melted
  • 1 lb. organic okra

Clean the kabocha with a wire brush and water. Dry completely. Remove the stem ends then chop in half. Remove the seeds and discard. Cut remaining okra into 1-inch pieces. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the ginger, garlic, salt, pepper and ghee.

Trim the ends from the okra and add to the bowl of spices. Add the kabocha and stir to coat with the spices.

Place the prepared vegetables in a single layer on a baking sheet. Transfer to oven and cook for 15 minutes, then use tongs to turn vegetables and brown the second side. Cook until tender (~15 additional minutes).

Remove from oven and transfer to a serving platter.

Giving Thanks for Our Special Community

Michelle King Michelle King, Director Career & Contract Ed.

Basketball for the Rest of Us.

Contemporary Singing Techniques.

Outing for Beginning Conversational Chinese.

I know it's a cliché, but it's worth repeating.  There is so much to be thankful for year-round, but I want to take the opportunity to count my blessings publicly.

As Director of Career & Contract Education, I feel it particularly important to express gratitude for the many people that are an integral part of SMC Community Education; a program that makes me proud. So, here is my litany of some of the things that I'm thankful for:

  • I am thankful for our wonderful students, who come to class eager to learn, to express themselves artistically, to learn new job skills, to take care of their health through exercise or proper nutrition, to tackle foreign languages and much more.
  • I am grateful for my hard-working staff members, who put in the extra effort to help create one of the best Extension learning programs available.
  • I am filled with gratitude for the superb Community Education instructors who share their knowledge and open doors of all kinds for our many students. 
  • I feel deep gratitude that we are able to impact the lives of many by offering "Life Long Learning" opportunities that enable students to discover hidden talents, pursue healthy lifestyles, learn new skills and/or advance their careers.
  • I am thankful that we have the support of the entire SMC and Santa Monica-Los Angeles community, which enables us to continuously improve our offering of tours, workshops, and course series.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Warm regards,

Michelle King
Director of Career &
Contract Education