By Dina Martin
Hailing from a family of teachers and union supporters — her grandmother was a teacher in Oakland, and her late father was a math instructor until he was 85, first in high school and then at the College of San Mateo — Lynette Nyaggah taught everything from bilingual kindergarten in Long Beach to English composition at CSU Fullerton to ESL and linguistics courses at Rio Hondo College, where she has taught since 1987. In June, after holding several other offices, Nyaggah became the 29th president of the Community College Association, CTA’s community college affiliate.
Three questions for Lynette Nyaggah
You are a professor of linguistics. Will you find it useful as CCA president?
Linguistics is an interesting combination of science and creativity. I think linguistics is a different way of thinking, where you try to see patterns in language; and if you see the patterns in language, you can look around and see patterns in behavior. It’s helpful in figuring out a way to work with people, rather than imposing your way of thinking over someone else.
Your father passed away this year, and then your husband, Mougo, a history professor at CSU Fullerton, died unexpectedly a few weeks later. But you didn’t withdraw from your campaign.
Losing my father was a shock, but it was somewhat expected because he had been in decline. Losing my husband was a terrible blow. He had been in good health, and it was so sudden. I remember going to State Council a week later — people showed me such kindness. It felt I was with family. My husband’s death did slow me down, but it did not stop me. I am determined to go forward. Because the goal didn’t go away.
What are your goals as CCA president?
We are expecting thousands of baby boomers to retire in the next few years, so we have to reach out to a new generation of faculty and find ways to make involvement in the union more accessible to them. It’s a concern for our younger faculty who have families or young children. I don’t want to demand so much from our leaders that they don’t have time for the rest of their lives.
As a union, we must find ways to make ourselves more visible in the community and connect to our communities. That’s what’s great about community colleges, because we are already in the community.