Student Spotlight: Peggy Kotecki
Peggy Kotecki spent 20 years working as a kindergarten aide at the school her children attended.
But when the Kindergarten teacher retired, she decided it was time to try something new, so she landed a part-time job at Schwarz Nursery. Encouraged by Bob Jerie, a co-worker who also taught at College of DuPage, she decided to enroll in a horticulture class at COD in fall 2008.
"My first class was an Intro to Horticulture class, and the rest is history," she said. "The teachers at COD were excellent, willing to share their vast knowledge and always encouraging me to reach beyond my comfort zone and do more than I thought would be possible."
In 2011, Kotecki was named National Two-Year College Intern Award winner by the Cooperative Education and Internship Association. Completing her internship at Schwarz, Kotecki designed sales displays, offered recommendations to customers for their home landscape problems and designed planters for corporate clients. Additionally, she developed sales brochures on the many native plants carried by the nursery.
She also was a contributing team member in the design of the new Horticulture Lab at the College and won top honors for landscape design from the Illinois Landscape Contractors Association and Illinois Landscape Challenge Day.
Kotecki received her Landscape Design Certificate in 2011 and plans to take more classes at COD while pursuing other Horticulture certificates and possibly an associate's degree. Her goal is to become a landscape designer specializing in native plants and shoreline restoration.
"People have this misconception that native plants are all dead-looking grasses," she said. "That's simply not true."
Native plants range in size and color and, when used properly, can create a lush, color-rich design, Kotecki said. Designs featuring native plant species have the added benefit of supporting the local ecosystem, sustaining native animals and insects.
Kotecki is thankful to College of DuPage for launching her horticulture career.
"The education I received has been top-notch, due in part to the teachers, but also due to my classmates who were striving to learn everything they could, who asked questions and who spent countless hours in the study lab with me," she said. "The instructors also provide so much support to the students here. It's been an amazing ride for me."