TORRINGTON – For the past seven years, whenever students at Eastern Wyoming College (EWC) would go to the Testing Center, they were always met by the smiling face of Jo Ellen Keigley, also known as “The MEAN Testing Lady.”
“The MEAN Testing Lady” stands for Motivating, Empathetic, Awesome and Nurturing. Keigley got the idea from a post she saw online from other testing ladies who were tired of being called mean. They instead decided to embrace it and add the acronym to show they cared. She said there weren’t too many times where “The MEAN Testing Lady” had to come out, but she was always there under the surface if need be.
“’The MEAN Testing Lady’ would come out when someone didn’t want to put their phone away or turn it off or said they turned it off and put it in a locker and then I’d hear it ring,” Jo Ellen Keigley said. “I like that, ‘The MEAN Testing Lady,’ that’s who I am, and I’ll miss being ‘The MEAN Testing Lady.’”
Keigley began working at EWC in November 2010 when she was hired at EWC in the workforce development department. She worked in that position for three years and then applied for the Testing Center job when that became open three years later. She then worked at the Testing Center for her final seven years at EWC.
“I worked in Workforce Development for three years and I worked with low-income parents, getting them into Workforce Development-type courses,” Keigley said. “The position in the Testing Center came open and I applied for it. I started in this position in August of 2013.”
Keigley’s time at EWC began long before her first day on the job. She began her college journey at the EWC outreach program in Guernsey and earned her associates degree in 2006. She then transferred to Chadron State College and got her bachelor’s degree in business education.
During her time at EWC and Chadron State College, Keigley continued working full time and raised her family. It took Keigley a total of 12 years to earn her degree while working full time and going to school part time.
Keigley said, coming back to EWC as an employee was a dream come true that she never even knew she had.
“I never dreamed that I would come to work at the college where I got my degree,” Keigley said. “It wasn’t even anything that ever entered my mind as a possibility. When I got the job here it was extremely exciting, and I know I went around for the first few months with this big silly grin on my face.”
One of the things Keigley enjoyed most, when she first started at EWC, was visiting with some of the professors who helped her in her educational journey. She said she spoke with them often and let them know how much of an influence they had on her life and her decisions.
To work in the Testing Center, Keigley needed to get certified on multiple different exam types to be able to proctor all of the exams offered in the Testing Center. Some of the exams Keigley needed to be certified in were the High School Equivalency Exam, Pearson Vue exams and various other industry certifications and pre-employment testing.
A few of the other tests Keigley proctors for students are make-up testing, for students who miss a test in the classroom, distance learning courses and College Level Examination Program (CLEP) testing. She also helps with career services, where she develops career information sheets and goes into various classrooms throughout the semester to inform students on resume building and interviewing skills.
During the past year, Keigley said her job changed drastically due to the pandemic. They used to never proctor exams online through platforms such as Zoom, but due to the pandemic, it became her new normal.
“Not being able to open for several months and then working at a reduced capacity, there was a need for online exams,” Keigley said. “We’ve done a lot of proctoring and placement testing over Zoom, as well as our distance learners.”
Keigley said in the past instructors used to require students to go to a testing center to take their exams, but due to the pandemic many of those testing centers were closed which led EWC to take their testing onto platforms such as Zoom.
When Keigley proctors a Zoom course, there’s a few different steps she needs to take before a student even begins taking their exam.
Students have to make an appointment with her and then she sends them the Zoom link. After that she has the student show a 360-degree view of their room to ensure no one else is there and there’s nothing in the room that will help them with the exam. If the student is allowed scratch paper, they have to show her the front and back to ensure nothing is on the paper. They then logon to the dashboard and share their screen with Keigley who enters the login code for the test. During the exam, Keigley needs to watch the student and their computer screen to ensure they aren’t doing anything they aren’t supposed to be doing.
Keigley said she would only do one Zoom exam at a time, but did have the capability to do one more, but with her responsibilities in the Testing Center made it difficult for her to pay attention to students in the Testing Center and watch the cameras on Zoom.
“You can do more than one at a time, but I don’t do that,” Keigley said. “There are many times when I’m doing a Zoom session and I have two or three students or more in the testing room and there’s no way I can watch two screens and pay attention to all the students in the Testing Center.”
Keigley said the things she enjoyed the most were the connections she would make with the students and seeing their reactions when they aced a test. Making those personal connections were important to Keigley and learning about their lives and being a part of their success.
“The reason I went into education is because I had experienced success and I wanted to be able to help other people experience success,” Keigley said. “I will miss that part of it and will miss interacting with faculty and making relationships with them.”
Keigley said she will not miss the 40-mile commute to campus from Guernsey every morning and evening, but she will miss some of the stunning sunrises and sunsets she would see on the wide-open plains. She does have a few things planned for retirement and is excited to enjoy time with her husband Stephen traveling around with their camper.
“What I have planned is, relaxing mornings on the patio with a good book and a cup of coffee,” Keigley said with a laugh. “My husband and I have a camper and we like to go for extended trips and we haven’t had the opportunity to do much of that.”
Keigley said she’s also looking forward to spending more time with her daughter Stephanie and son-in-law Corey Vento, who live in Rapid City, South Dakota and going to morning coffee with the retired ladies of Guernsey.
When Keigley reflected on her time at EWC she wanted people to know if they have a dream, go for it and for students to know that EWC is a great place to start out and they do a great job preparing students for their future.
“If you have a dream, go for it,” Keigley said. “You’re never too old, I was 50 when I got my degree.”
“EWC is a great place to start out as a student and we have great people here who do a great job and everybody works hard to serve the students and the community,” Keigley said. “That’s something people need to know; everybody works hard, and the goal is to serve the students and the community. I think for the most part we do a good job of that. I’m going to miss everybody, and it’s been a marvelous experience being here.”