Popular PTC Educator Known for Commitment and Compassion
In more than two decades of teaching at Piedmont Technical College (PTC), Christina Knight only missed three graduation ceremonies (with good reason) — for her wedding and for the birth of each of her children. Otherwise, nothing could keep her from witnessing the milestones in her students’ lives, semester after semester.
“They are all like my kids,” she said. “Every student has a different story. I want to see each of them succeed.”
There is an unmistakable bond between Knight and her students, probably because she makes a point to be approachable, and they can see themselves in her example. Every term, on the first day of classes, she introduces herself, noting that she received her education at PTC as well.
“I know the first day can be nerve-wracking,” she said. “I tell them that I was sitting in the same chair they are in not so long ago. I know how they feel. I say I am here to help you get to your goal. I am thankful that you chose Piedmont Tech. I love it so much and believe in it so much that I stayed and built a career out of it.”
Teaching was the farthest thing from Knight’s mind when she set out to attend college. Born and raised in Greenwood, Knight had an affinity for math and developed an interest in electronics from her dad. She had her eyes on owning her own electronics business and didn’t want to burden her parents with the cost of attending a four-year university.
“The cost of PTC was just right,” she explained. “An electronic engineering technology degree was what really drove me to Piedmont Tech. And that opened the door for me to transfer to a four-year university (South Carolina State University).”
Knight earned an associate in applied science in electronic engineering technology in 1998, following that up with an associate in applied science in engineering design technology in 2000. From there, she transferred to an online program at SC State, where she earned her bachelor’s in electronic engineering technology in 2001.
She began teaching as an adjunct at PTC in 1999, becoming a full-time engineering instructor in 2001. Soon, there was just no turning back.
“I found my calling. I love it,” Knight said. “Teaching is where I need to be.”
After 20 years of service, last year Knight got a big promotion to a leadership position — dean for engineering and industrial technology. But working in the “ivory tower” will not keep her from the students.
“I like the challenge. It’s something different,” Knight said of being the new dean. “I do miss the students. … I still visit the classrooms. I make that a priority.”
She also continues to serve as the club advisor to the Tau Alpha Pi Engineering Technology Honor Society. Demonstrating by example that we are all lifelong learners, Knight has been working on a master’s in engineering management from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. She is on course to achieve that goal this December.
Knight and her husband, Joey, have two children: Colton, age 15, and Jordyn, age 12. They are a family that does everything together. In fact, high-schooler Colton is now also a student at PTC, in the dual enrollment program, studying engineering. The family tries to have supper together — sans telephones — every night to converse about their day. It almost seems too idyllic, but it is extremely important.
“Our family is the center of our universe,” Knight explained. “We go to Disney World as a family every year. We go to the mountains two or three times a year. We really enjoy doing escape rooms. We have done probably 60 escape rooms so far.”
Having children launched a neat side gig — coaching. Knight is a co-owner and director of Lakelands Sports, a co-ed baseball league for children as young as 3. She has coached baseball, softball, soccer, and flag football. She says what sport she is coaching can change, depending on what her children are playing.
“As a family, baseball is really our thing,” she noted. “We are currently touring every minor league stadium in South Carolina. We’d like to see all the ball parks. We try to go see the Atlanta Braves several times a season.”
Knight’s teaching style is flexible, always aligning with the situation. She is comfortable doling out tough love when it’s needed but also can employ a soft touch when it is warranted.
“If I have to give tough love, I am firm, but the students go away feeling good about themselves,” she said. “You don’t hit them when they are down.”
She makes it clear up front to her classes that she sets a high bar.
“I tell them, you have me for two years. I will be watching you to see if you give 100%,” she said. “That is what our employers are looking for. You need to start from day one and give it your all.”
Knight’s commitment and compassion have not gone unnoticed at the college. In 2018, she was selected to receive the President’s Medallion, PTC’s highest honor. The following year, she also was recognized by her colleagues with the 2019 Faculty Visionary Award.
The humble educator has been quietly unfazed by all the attention. She is more comfortable behind the scenes, preferring to shine the spotlight on talented students and celebrating their achievements. She remains both circumspect and grateful. So what would she tell her younger, college-age self?
“I’d say, ‘Don’t blink!’” she said. “I wouldn’t want to do anything differently. I think the mistakes I’ve made have made me the person I am today.”
PHOTO: PTC Dean for Engineering and Industrial Technology Christina Knight