At the end of 2020, we asked members of the educational community to share their stories of inspiring colleagues, students, and support staff as they navigated the challenges of the past year. In response, we received a flood of nominations honoring people’s selflessness, creativity and dedication.
Thank you to all who participated in this special event and supported each other during this difficult year. While this contest has come to a close, we know your commitment to education remains strong.
Read about the winners’ stories below. Congratulations!
Todd Bryda, Northwestern Connecticut Community College
Nominated by Crystal Wiggins
Professor Bryda raised over $1,000 in one week to ensure that a student who relied on campus housing for shelter would have a place to live with the campus’s closure in March. He also operates the campus food pantry, which closed along with the rest of campus in the spring. To ensure that students who relied on this service continued to have access to food, he gave out over $3,000 in grocery store gift cards to these students in need. Professor Bryda has since reopened the campus pantry with COVID-safe precautions put in place.
David Weisbart, University of California-Riverside
Nominated by Adam Yassine
Professor Weisbart of UC Riverside led the transition to online instruction in the math department, and even before the necessity to go virtual, he was a proponent of fully synchronous online teaching. In the past year, he: regularly trained TA’s on hosting online office hours and taught them how to run collaborative learning sessions in-person; graduated a doctoral student and mentored several undergraduates; taught large classes with high evaluations; and created a fully homegrown pre-calculus program, with free materials, for at-risk students who are historically underrepresented. Professor Weisbart has played a pivotal role in supporting graduate students as they obtain their post-docs, tenure track positions, and industry positions. Additionally, he took the time to redesign the professional development course for incoming math graduate students to ensure their success.
Joe Heafner, Catawba Valley Community College
Nominated by Laurie Keatts
Professor Heafner teaches physics & astronomy courses at Catawba Valley Community College. He has always encouraged his students to be critical thinkers and provided ample support for them; this year, however, he went above and beyond in this support as classes shifted to a virtual environment. Professor Heafner began offering unique oral assessments to students in which they could talk through their knowledge of the material. In addition to this accommodation, he also worked with students navigating abrupt shifts in their schedules and allowed them to complete assignments and assessments when it was convenient for them, even if it was on an evening or weekend.
Jenette Stark, Edison State Community College
Nominated by Sacha Ramirez
Ms. Stark joined Edison State Community College’s Tutoring Center shortly before the campus closed in Spring 2020. Even with this hurdle, she went on to become an embedded tutor in multiple developmental-level math and English sections. Ms. Stark exudes patience and understanding, making an intentional effort to connect with students who have learning disabilities; the students she tutors love working with her. In addition to her role with Edison, she works in the local community providing support to a K12 after-school tutoring program and hosting wellness events for adults who need mental health support.
Dr. Shana Hunt-Martin, DeKalb School of the Arts
Nominated by LeeAnn Roberts
Dr. Hunt-Martin teaches creative writing at a performing arts magnet high school. At the time of the school’s Spring 2020 closure, she had already prepared lessons that required her students to be provided with advance copies of a book. With the copies already delivered to her classroom, she was intent on her students receiving their books so that they could fully engage in the unit of study. To make this happen, Dr. Hunt-Martin personally visited each students’ doorstep, or met them at another outdoor, distanced location, to deliver their books. In this instance and several others, she has worked hard to make learning relevant, reveal models of real-world artistic undertakings, champion her students’ creative endeavors, and inspire them to write their truths and aspire to academic excellence.
Dr. Alina Romo, Allan Hancock College
Nominated by Kristi Brickey
Dr. Romo, an English instructor at Allan Hancock College, realized that several of her students were not in a financial position to purchase or rent the novels required for her class. In response to this need, she decided to buy a few sets of novels that her students could borrow and return at the end of the semester. Inside each book was a stamped message that read, “From the library of Dr. Alina Romo. Please read, enjoy and return.” Dr. Romo ensured that, despite the obstacles of the past year, each of her students had the tools necessary for success.
Kristin White, Old Dominion University
Nominated by Chrystal Trapani
When COVID crippled the education system and shut down institutions nationwide, Ms. White trained herself in Zoom so that she could teach faculty and staff how to use the platform for online courses. She went from novice to expert in a short time period and patiently trained her colleagues on the program’s ins-and-outs. She was vital to the institution’s transition to virtual course delivery and continues to stay current on Zoom features as they arise, updating documentation accordingly. With her help, instructors have been able to maintain a quality education for nearly twenty-four thousand undergraduates.
Megan Savage, Portland Community College
Nominated by Bryan Hull & Jane Zunkel
Professor Savage has been instrumental in supporting colleagues & students in the transition to online learning. She has connected instructors to resources and built a Covid-related teaching site within their institution’s LMS offering materials, support and guidance. Additionally, she holds weekly check-ins for faculty and colleagues in which they can ask questions and discuss their transition. Professor Savage has also been an active member of her discipline’s Race & Racism group for several years, helping to encourage diversity and acceptance throughout campus.
Todd Ledford, Isothermal Community College
Nominated by Saundra Clay
Mr. Ledford has been Isothermal Community College’s Academic Development Instructional Assistant for several years and is currently managing the campus’ Tutoring Center. Throughout the past year, he has strictly followed COVID safety guidelines to ensure that students have a safe, effective tutoring environment, even creating a virtual tutoring center. He works hard to accommodate students with hectic schedules, and he is always seeking to broaden the subject matter with which he assists students, drawing on instructors in several disciplines to ensure the best possible outcomes for success.
Tracy Dragoo, Greenville Technical College
Nominated by Greg Hancox and Lynette Stucka
Professor Dragoo of Greenville Technical College has worked tirelessly to ensure that students receive the best possible virtual education. She consistently ensures that materials meet ADA standards, are accurate, and helpful to learning; she also creates useful study tools, such as videos, to help break down complex topics. In the summer of last year, Professor Dragoo mastered the CORE class, using this knowledge to redesign courses for the upcoming virtual fall semester. She trained her department to ensure that they were all up to speed, and she always strives to make herself, and her positive attitude, available to colleagues in need of support.
Congratulations to our winners! We are grateful to you and all members of the educational community for your sacrifices and dedication during this past year.
From the bottom of our hearts: Thank you.