PTC Surgical Technology Instructor Works Tirelessly to Help Students Succeed

You might say it was a wake-up call of sorts when Lenette Thompson received a phone message recording from a student reading her a children’s bedtime story and instructing her to go to sleep. The Surgical Technology Clinical Coordinator at Piedmont Technical College (PTC) has an enviable work ethic but did not realize it might be disturbing her students’ coveted eight hours until then. 


The popular instructor has been on the full-time faculty at PTC for 24 years, and in that time, has seen the technologies evolve, especially during the pandemic, when courses went fully online. With 24/7 flexibility to update or modify her courses, Thompson quite forgot about one, modern-day staple — phone notifications.

“I tend to forget that the students have access to our courses on their phones,” she explained. “When I have an idea or need to create something or change a Powerpoint, it may be nighttime because, when I can’t sleep, I often work. So at 2 a.m. in the morning, I may be uploading information on D2L so students will have it the next day. Soon, the students started asking me, do you ever sleep? That is when it really sunk in that their phones were dinging at night whenever I uploaded content! … Now I store the information to a jump drive and upload it at a reasonable hour in the morning.”

Thompson’s rapport with her students is not accidental. She connects to them through common experience. She has walked in their shoes. “I attended PTC in surgical technology. That is where I started. I love PTC. I can’t think of working anywhere else,” she said. “I love this college. This is my life.” 


Eunice Gordon, a 2023 graduate of the program, wanted to make sure the PTC administration understood what a gem they have on campus. Last summer, she sent an email to the college’s vice president for academic affairs and its healthcare division dean to express what a difference Thompson had made in her life. 

“2023 has been a long year for me because, not only was I enrolled in this program, but I had to take three additional classes, which presented a challenge for me. There were several times I wanted to quit because the load was quite heavy, but Ms. Lenette would say to me, ‘You got this, Ms. Eunice,’” Gordon wrote. “It’s been a while since I’ve experienced a teacher who really cares about the success of her students. … Ms. Lenette Thompson truly deserves to be recognized as a one-in-a-million teacher, and I wanted to take this opportunity to thank her for all she’s done for me throughout the year. I appreciate her dedication and hard work, as she helped me to learn and grow. I wouldn’t be where I am today without her help.” 

Two things that set Thompson apart are her empathy and compassion. Remembering her roots, she strives mightily to make learning memorable for her medical terminology students, occasionally introducing games like Kahoots! and Word Jumble to make it fun.

“I have played Millionaire in the classroom. It’s not a game; it’s a learning activity to help students retain the information. I found that whatever would help me as a student could help them. I know what it’s like to struggle,” she said. “If I can do a little bit extra for the students to succeed, that is what I need to do.” 

A guiding principle she lives by came from her late mother, who told her to never forget where she came from. 

“You need to remember where you came from and what your struggles were, because the people you are helping are going through the same struggles, and some of them have it worse,” she said. “We are there to help them succeed. We are there to lead them.”

That tenet helped inspire Thompson and PTC Dean of Curriculum & Online Learning Karla Gilliam (who both teach AHS 102/Medical Terminology) to research Open Education Resources (OER) for their students in the healthcare division. During their search, they found an OER textbook and activities for AHS 102 that could be tailored to meet the needs of their students. 

OERs are online course materials with an open license, allowing educators to modify, enhance and share content with students for free. Gilliam explained that Creative Commons, a global, nonprofit network committed to educational access, enables the adaptation, revisions, and sharing of content through a menu of flexible copyright licenses. 

Money for college textbooks, which generally are not covered by conventional scholarships, often comes out of a student’s pocket. Costs can approach a whopping $400 for a single textbook in some cases, posing a major financial obstacle for students. AHS 102 came into focus largely because its textbook costs $108.51 per copy, and most students in the healthcare track must take the prerequisite course. 

“We had 387 students taking this course, which launched in the Fall 2023 term,” Thompson explained. “At that price, students would have had to spend $41,993 for textbooks in just one semester. Instead, the textbook is now built in the OER course, which is free. If a student would like a hard copy, they can contact the PTC Bookstore and have one printed for just $11.”

Thompson noted that while she and Gilliam were building the Medical Terminology OER course over about a year, not only did they add customized content, but they also built in H5P Interactive Content, Powerpoints, audio clips for pronunciation, as well as visual aids and videos. 

“Our students can now have up-to-date material, as the medical profession is changing constantly. Typically, when a textbook is adopted, it is five years before another edition is released. New procedures and equipment are introduced daily, so traditional textbooks become dated before the next edition is available,” Thompson said. “We now have the capability to add this new content to keep the course current and provide real-time learning experiences for our students.”

The value of OERs is becoming widely recognized in higher education. 

“PTC probably now has between 40 and 50 OER course offerings,” said Lisa Toland, PTC Dean of Off-Campus Academic Affairs and Chair of the college’s OER Committee. PTC recently developed coherent “Career Communities,” which are clustered by academic areas of study that feed into targeted career paths. “Each of our Learning Communities has incorporated a ‘College Skills’ course, and each has an OER.” Toland noted that the SC Technical College System also is developing an online OER hub designed to enable all System colleges to share OER content.

Of course, affordability of OER content is a huge bonus, but Toland said there are many other benefits. For example, students with disabilities or other learning challenges can access content via closed captioning. Fonts can be made larger and easier to read, and some students can listen to their OER content just like an audiobook. OER accommodates a diverse range of student learners. 

“Developing OER courses takes a lot of time,” Toland said. “But it is well worth it.”

Thompson feels that developing OERs should be (and usually is) a priority for PTC faculty.

“It is important because many of our students struggle financially and in their daily lives,” she said. “At times, they struggle to put gas in their car to come to clinicals or to pay a babysitter. Sometimes they are taking care of family members. I know students who are working two part-time jobs and going to school. … An OER can help them save money for something else that they need, like groceries.” 

A native and resident of Ridge Spring, Thompson lost her husband, Clint, in 2022. While an empty nester, she enjoys the company of her pet chihuahua, Buttercup. “Since Clint passed away, she is always with me. It’s just the two of us. It’s hard,” Thompson says with no trace of self-pity in her voice. She is thoughtfully reflective about matters of love and loss.

Thompson’s grown son, Travis, is a PTC graduate with two degrees, one in horticulture and another in engineering design technology. He currently works at Darby Metalworks in Anderson. Sadly, she had a daughter, Jessica, who lived only 10 days because of a rare congenital heart anomaly. She feels privileged to have had even that short time with her daughter.

“I was given 10 days with her, and I was thankful,” she said. “I got to love on her. I held her.” 

Outside of the PTC classroom, Thompson also finds joy leading Children’s Church at Donalds Church of God. 

“My favorite thing is watching the kids light up when you do something a little different or special,” she said. 

Regardless of the age of her charges, Thompson relates to them individually on a personal level.

“Sometimes you just need to sit down with them or lend a shoulder for them to cry on. Other times, they need you to be their mentor,” she said. “You need to be that person that they know and trust to come to. I want to be that person. I want to be here for them. I want them to succeed.”



•    Lenette Thompson
•    OER collaborators Lenette Thompson and Karla Gilliam
•    Lenette Thompson in the Classroom