Richmond Community College is losing its star technical support specialist, but Richmond County students will gain an independent Jeff Epps who will train teachers in implementing all manner of emerging technologies into their curriculum.
Epps is retiring from his role as network systems engineer for RCC and, starting in January, he will fully commit to STEMerald City, a supplemental STEM education company founded by Epps that will offer his technical expertise to teachers and students in Richmond County and the surrounding counties. He has already done contracting work with Richmond County Schools and, in the future, will expand that work to provide sustained curriculum development within RCS and at RCC.
“I’m exiting one atmosphere to re-enter it in a different capacity,” Epps said.
His work with RCS will start with an on-site training seminar on coding on Jan. 15-16 that will be the building blocks of a daily coding curriculum.
Epps gained a reputation among students for his G.R.E.A.T. STEM Academy and Saturday Academy — which he will continue to run — where he exposed students to coding and 3-D modeling, among other skills that will prepare them for the future. He said that over the last 10 years he has identified institutional gaps in K-12 and secondary education in terms of STEM and he will apply these lessons to his contracting work.
“There has to be more professional development if we are going to move the needle with STEM education,” Epps said Wednesday. “Truly what (schools) need is quality training for the people teaching their students and Richmond County Schools and RCC get that.”
Epps’ last day at RCC after two years is Thursday. He previously spent 11 years as director of information technology for RCS and has been in IT for 27 years total. He now says he’s “burnt out” on IT, and over the last several years has rekindled his “love affair” with teaching STEM to students.
“My passion for working with students became stronger than my passion for IT,” Epps said of his reason for leaving. “I woke up one morning and realized the students were more important.”
Lee Montrose, chief information officer for RCC, said losing Epps is a “tremendous blow” to the college, but said he had confidence in his replacement, Brent Gibson, who has worked with RCS in the past.
“(Epps) is incredibly passionate about STEM and you can see the sparks he lights in kids that will lead them to better careers,” Montrose said.
“(STEMerald City) will be a valuable service to the community.”
Gibson worked two-and-a-half years in IT at RCS, then worked in Moore County for one-and-a-half years prior to taking over for Epps as network engineer for RCC. He and Epps have worked together for a total of 6 years and said the two are “cut from the same cloth” in terms of their commitment to helping others
“I’ve got big shoes to fill,” Gibson said.”He set a high bar for his work and customer service — he’s always gone above and beyond … He saw things in kids others didn’t see and got them interacting with what they were learning.”
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