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UPON RETURNING TO SCHOOL several years ago, Wilmington College graduate Linda Tecklenberg dedicated herself to being the best athletic trainer she could be. Her commitment to excellence resulted in her attaining the top score in the country on this year’s national certification examination for athletic training.

This summer, at the National Athletic Trainers Association’s annual convention in Salt Lake City (June 18-20), she was confirmed as among the nation’s best and most promising in the field of sports medicine when she received the “Eddie Wojecki Award” in recognition of her test score. Tecklenburg, who resides with her husband, Don, and their four children in Cincinnati, said she was initially worried about simply passing the exam, which encompasses 150 written questions, an oral practical and a written simulation component. “I never imagined I’d finish the best in the country,” she said. “I figured a physical trainer with 10 years of experience who came back for certification would.

“I was scared to take it because I know the vast majority of those taking it the first time don’t pass all three parts of the exam,” she added. News of Tecklenberg’s accomplishment delighted Wilmington College’s athletic training staff. “It’s like winning the national championship in your sport,” said Cynthia Studrawa, assistant professor. “Linda’s an exceptional student and an excellent trainer.

“Her accomplishment gives our program a lot of credibility,” Studrawa added. “Apparently, we’re preparing our students well. We’re making them good certified athletic trainers – and that’s our goal!” Terry Rupert, director of athletics and chair of the Department of Health, Physical Education and Athletic Training, said Tecklenburg’s achievement was the culmination of an “outstanding” year that saw an individual national championship in track and field, the men’s and women’s soccer teams compete in the NCAA Division III National Tournament and a general resurgence of the College’s athletics program.

“Athletic training is one of Wilmington’s most unique and prominent academic programs in that it is based on the concept of learning by doing,'” he said, noting student trainers work closely with each of WC’s athletic teams and play an integral role preparing athletes for competition, evaluating injuries and assisting them with rehabilitation. “Linda’s achievements ‹ her excellence in the classroom, her exemplary work with Wilmington athletes and her best score in the nation reflect the epitome of preparation for a career in athletic training,” Rupert said.

Larry Howard, Program Director and Associate Professor, said Tecklenburg’s success on the national level comes at a particularly good time, as the department is seeking national accreditation of its athletic training program, which currently has more than 60 majors. “Linda’s a credit to our program,” Howard said. “She’s an exceptional student, very intelligent and a hard worker.” Tecklenberg, who originally earned a degree in biology “a million years ago” from a much larger school, said Wilmington’s opportunities for personal attention from faculty and staff were keys to her success. “The thing I like most about Wilmington is the intimacy of the classes.

There’s a familiarity and, as questions come up, the professors are available to you almost any time of day,” she said. “Having been in chemistry classes with 500 students at a large university, Wilmington’s classes are much less intimidating,” she added. “That environment helps reinforce learning.” Tecklenburg related the story of when she was forced to miss several days of class because her son was ill. She sent a tape recorder to her classes so she wouldn’t miss the lectures.

“The tape came back not only with the lecture but with greetings and well wishes from my classmates and professors,” she said. “It’s a very personal learning situation – you’re definitely a person at Wilmington.” Tecklenburg experienced WC’s trademark personal attention on an even higher level when her professors took on the role of mentor. “That close one-on-one situation helps you learn,” she said.

“That mentoring relationship lended itself to my success – the athletic training faculty give you both independence and responsibility.” Also, she gave back to the program by volunteering as a tutor to help her peers in courses she had taken, an action that also assisted her in preparing for the certification exam. Tecklenburg would like to start her athletic training career at a medical clinic in the Cincinnati area with an ultimate goal of getting her master’s degree and teaching in a college setting like WC’s. “I started out at Day One at Wilmington to be the best athletic trainer I could be,” she said. “I think my success on the certification exam is a very good endorsement for Wilmington’s athletic training program – it indicates they’re teaching the right stuff.”