Back in the Classroom: Debra Pelletier, PMP

Debra Pelletier

Having always been a natural leader, Project Management Instructor Debra Pelletier doesn’t fall far from the tree.

“I don’t know why but me, my sister and my cousin are all teachers”, Debra said. We’re not only knowledgeable, but we’re entertaining. We’ve always been in positions growing up where we are leading a group of people.”

It’s a quality that has guided her professional journey. Hailing from Watsonville, California, she received both her bachelor’s and her master’s degrees from San Jose State. Wanting her career to be impactful in her community, she began her work in parks and recreation, working for the cities of Watsonville and then relocating to Redmond, Washington in 1996. She continued in parks and rec, but in 2009, after 25 years in the field she chose to do something new, despite the risks that came with her decision.

“I love parks and recreation. Do not get me wrong, it’s a wonderful industry, but I found myself needing to do something different. I decided to go back to school because I’ve always loved learning, but for the first time in over 25 years, I was unemployed. It was a very humbling experience trying to figure out what I wanted to do and wondering why I had made some of those decisions.”

With assistance funds, Debra enrolled in Bellevue College, who facilitated some of the corporate training Debra received while working for the City of Redmond. Debra spent the next couple years working toward a certification as a marketing specialist but found herself being pulled back toward the world she left behind.

“I was doing side work in marketing and I started to realize most of my marketing clients were all in parks and recreation. And it’s not what I wanted to do. My goal was to be more on the corporate side. I went to meet my counselor to talk about what I needed to do to finish the program, and it was my counselor that said, ‘You’ve got all this experience in parks and recreation, which is a lot like project management. We have a project management certification and all the classes that you’ve taken go to that degree as well.’”

Debra didn’t need to hear more. She enrolled in her first project management course and became instantly intrigued.

“I’ve done thousands of projects, but none with the methodologies taught in Project Management Institute. I became so passionate because I wanted to know more. I started to think how wonderful this would be for all of my peers in parks and recreation. When I looked back at all the projects I managed, I don’t know how different the end results would’ve been, but the process would’ve been more efficient for me and my team.”

Debra went on to earn her Project Management Professional Certificate and now teaches project management courses at Bellevue College Continuing Education and Edmonds Community College. Her love for leading and teaching has also extended past adult education as she is a middle school teacher for the Kent School district specializing working with immigrant and high-risk youth.

“Even though my Master is in Public Administration, all my elective courses were on curriculum development. I had a mentor who understood my personal goal was to teach college as a professional in the field.”

Her experience in curriculum development has also been utilized at BCCE. Debra currently teaches Principles of Project Management and Project Planning and Scheduling, having developed both courses as a subject matter expert along with several others currently being taught by other PM instructors. Her love for project management and her natural ability to lead has made her an instructor student can depend on.

“At BCCE, I’ve got a roomful of people with different motivations. One of the things I do in the first 20 minutes of my class is ask students ‘Why are you here? Where are you at in your career?’ This allows me to take a pulse of the students in the room and what their motives and needs are. Even though I know a lot, I don’t know everything, and the knowledge in the room ranges from beginner to expert. This influences the way I teach. I feel it’s important for people to be engaged in the learning process.”

Debra’s decision to create a new career direction for herself was an intimidating one. Now that she has, her work is making a positive impact in the community. Only instead of doing it from an office, she’s doing it from a classroom.

“I can relate with so many of my students for being unemployed for the first time in my life. Deciding to make a career change was beyond scary; Not knowing whether the change can be managed and the outcome will successful can  be stressful. You have all these thoughts, and I’m here to help my students navigate through this process as well as teach them. We have to start somewhere and there’s a lot of moving parts, but I tell students ‘Your success lies in your own accountability. If you work hard and keep going, I promise you the final product will be a masterpiece, and it will all come together at the end.”

Last Updated April 10, 2019