Campus News · Feature

Butler alum welcomed back by old professors 

Jen Anima-Valdez


When you walk into Joseph LaForge’s office, you will notice tons of books, football and soccer jerseys, and of course his uniquely detailed water dispenser for his Terere – a native Paraguayan tea.  

Joseph LaForge, full-time instructor, earned his associates at Butler before transferring to Emporia State. Jen Anima-Valdez

His love for Paraguayan culture and their awareness of the natural world is shown throughout not only his office but in his life as well.  

After graduating from Butler in 2017 with an associate in science and liberal arts, LaForge attended Emporia State University where he studied for both his bachelor’s and master’s. His plans were to study abroad in Paraguay during one of his semesters there, but those plans came to a sudden halt with the Covid-19 Pandemic in 2020 when the world shut down.  

He was forced to postpone his trip until the first summer of his master’s program. LaForge planned the trip and was ready until he met a woman named Mariela who was also a student at ESU. She just happened to be from Paraguay – the place LaForge loved so much!  

“I ride my bike up really fast and I stop, and I say ‘hello. Hello, how are you? What’s your name?’ and she said, ‘I don’t speak English and I said that’s OK, I speak Spanish,’ and so then I learned her name is Mariela, and now (years later) she’s my fiancé,” LaForge said.  

LaForge recently proposed to Mariela back in September of 2022.  

The story between him and his now fiancé is something out of a book! It turns out Mariela lives only two blocks away from where he was supposed to stay with his host family in Paraguay. It was during his most recent trip there with his new fiancé that he found an open position to teach at BCC and knew he had to take a chance even though he was out of the country.  

Before this incredible love story, LaForge grew up right here in El Dorado, attending both the middle and high school here. Both of his parents grew up here as well and even his grandfather was a professor of typewriting and shorthand on typewriters when BCC used to be located at what is now El Dorado Middle School.  

He is now back in his hometown as an anatomy and physiology professor here at BCC working with the same professors that have inspired his career choice. One of these teachers includes Michael Cissell who passed away in 2018.  LaForge credits Cissell as the person who taught him how to love and read literature.  

“I met Michael, and I started reading novels, so he was extremely influential just in my life really and so was Katheryn McCoskey,” LaForge said.  

Before his passing Cissell published a book called “The Cutting Songs of the Butcher’s Son,” which is displayed in LaForge’s office along with other books that Cissell enjoyed. 

Katheryn McCoskey, professor of English, LaForge claims is the reason he wanted to become a professor. 

“She really just looked like she was having fun,” Laforge said. “She was able to bring her own passion to teaching, and when I saw her having so much fun and loving her job so much, I thought I could do that too.”  

He has a diverse number of students as he teaches at both Rose Hill and the El Dorado campuses. He enjoys the variety of ages and life stories his students bring to class. He describes his first week at BCC as simply “excellent”.  

During his time here, he hopes his students gain a better understanding of the human body by visualizing images rather than memorizing hundreds of vocabulary words.  

“It’s easy to learn a lot of trivial knowledge, a lot of facts,” LaForge said. “I don’t want to try to teach those. I want to try to teach them to be ready when they’re in a (real life) situation. Those words and definitions–they’re in books, you go find a book and you figure it out, but when you’re in a situation where somebody comes in with trauma, you’re not going to go read a book, you need to just know.” 

Some of the traits LaForge believes one must have as a teacher is patience and great understanding. His ultimate goal as a professor is still pending, but for now he is focused on finishing out his first semester. What has also made this experience so amazing is getting to teach alongside his old professors.  

McCoskey describes LaForge as someone who always wanted to learn, write and read more , which is something she says as an educator is very rewarding to experience. She is excited to work alongside him and thinks having a young, male instructor is great. Being the reason why LaForge wanted to pursue teaching, she says, is an honor.  

“To be able to influence someone else without even knowing it, it’s just such an honor,” McCoskey said. 

If you do not see him teaching or walking around campus, he is more than likely reading a book or participating in his local church activities.  

LaForge jokingly claimed that he thought his office would be in the boiler room of the auto mechanic building but overall feels extremely blessed to be back at his alma mater.  

“I’m just so happy to be here,” LaForge said. “I love Butler; I feel blessed to be here. There’s no other feeling.” 


One thought on “Butler alum welcomed back by old professors 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s