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Field Experience of Instructors Helps Student Excel

February 5, 2020

Real-world experience benefits technical college instructors in the classroom. That is especially true in the Criminal Justice program at Blackhawk Technical College. Nick Cervantes, a Criminal Justice student agreed, “One of the many things I like about Blackhawk, is that all the professors have had real-life experience in the field that they are teaching. This allows the professor to explain the topics from firsthand experiences and helps the students understand how things work out in the field.”

Blackhawk instructor Mitchell Ziolkowski brings nearly 13 years of experience to the classroom. With experience in rural and suburban departments, Mitchell also brings experience as K-9 handler and trainer, detective, field training officer, police school liaison officer, bicycle patrol, and forensic artist. He has been teaching law enforcement since 2007.

Learning from faculty members who are veteran law enforcement officers helps students to gain firsthand accounts of lessons learned from the field. The previous roles Blackhawk instructors have held in law enforcement are helpful in a variety of Criminal Justice courses. Mitchell explained, "The wide variety of experiences I had in two completely different police agencies has shown me multiple ways to do the same job and is perfect for our entry-level course. My detective experience works well to share cases I worked from beginning to end in Criminal Investigation Strategies.” 

Nick was drawn to criminal justice studies as he wanted to be in a field where he would be able to help others. In addition, he wanted a career where he could make a difference in his community. Daily, he is able to learn from others who have experience doing just that.

“I’ve tried many different career paths and none of them have satisfied me as much as law enforcement. I don’t want to be behind a desk all day and need to be out in the world doing something hands-on,” added Nick.

After graduating from Blackhawk, Nick plans to transfer to complete his Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice. In addition, he is hoping to get hired as a police officer.

Mitchell, a veteran instructor, can see that Nick has a future in the industry. “What amazes me about Nick is his ability to balance the coursework with life and a couple of part-time criminal justice-related jobs. Nick has an eagerness to learn and delivers quality work. I am excited to help mentor him as he is ambitious about his future in law enforcement.”  

Nick concluded, “Going back to school has been a challenge for me. Working full-time and being a full-time student is very challenging. It’s hard to find the right balance for everything that you need to get done. With the help, understanding, and encouragement from the staff, it makes it all possible.”

To learn more about the Criminal Justice Program at Blackhawk, visit
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