Excellence in Teaching Award Recipients
2019 Excellence in Teaching Award: Deidre Yancey
Deidre Yancey, Chair and Instructor of the First Year Experience, is the recipient of the 2019 Excellence in Teaching Award. Deidre was nominated due to her initiative and efforts to create an inclusive and encouraging learning environment.
She aims to build a bond of trust with her students. “Facilitating the development of my students as whole persons begins with interactions that are warm, personal, and genuine,” she explains. Deidre’s “What, So What, Now What?” assignment gets her students to think critically and see how what they are learning applies to life outside the classroom. She also regularly reflects on how she herself is doing as an instructor and on how effective her coursework is and will adjust and update when needed.
She also helped lay out plans of study for the nursing program to make the requirements clearer to faculty and students and updated the ACA 122 course to better align it with Quality Enhancement Plan, or QEP, objectives, putting a focus on coursework for student career exploration and development.
Deidre has been involved with Faculty Partners Offering Wisdom (FPOW) and the TLC Teaching-Learning Academy at Durham Tech, Achieving the Dream conference, Regional ACA Workshop as a featured speaker, and with a number of educational projects with the Durham Public Schools and North Carolina State University.
2018 Excellence in Teaching Award: Marina DelVecchio
Marina DelVecchio, Instructor of English and Women’s Studies, has been selected as the 2018 Excellence in Teaching Award recipient. Her portfolio speaks to her deep commitment to Durham Technical Community College and its students and thoroughly demonstrates why she deserves this honor.
Marina expresses her teaching philosophy in her portfolio by writing, “The success of literature and humanities courses depends upon the connection students learn to make between the material we are learning and the human experiences we are combatting outside of the classroom.” In her classes, the instructor guides her students to approach the material in a more personal way by drawing connections between the course material and the students’ lives. Marina takes an innovative approach to teaching ENG 112 by centering the course around the theme of censorship. Students are encouraged to share opinions while Marina works to create an atmosphere of mutual respect that recognizes each individual’s voice.
Aside from her success as an instructor, the committee was struck by the instructor’s breadth of devotion to student learning at Durham Tech. Most notably, Marina has directed the Honors Program since 2013 and is responsible for its growth. Thanks to her tireless devotion, the program has grown from eight honors students to approximately 25 students per semester. Marina also organizes an Honors Symposium each semester to showcase the students’ work, and, for the past several years, students have been annually invited to participate in the UNC Greensboro Undergraduate Honors Symposium where they have been recognized for the quality of their projects.
As if teaching and carrying the weight of the Honors Program isn’t enough, Marina has also completed a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, or SoTL, project to inform her teaching related to feminism, has served on numerous committees and task forces for various campus initiatives, and has continued to pursue her own educational goals by earning a MFA in Creative Writing. Marina is a mentor, a leader, and a true educator.
2017 Excellence in Teaching Award: Jim DePalma
Dr. Jim DePalma, Instructor of History, is the 2017 Excellence in Teaching Award recipient. Jim’s teaching portfolio submission and classroom observation demonstrates why he is a deserving recipient.
In both the portfolio statements and the classroom observation, a theme emerged: one of Jim’s strongest qualities as an instructor is his deep connection to students. This connection ignites motivation in students to learn both historical content and critical thinking skills in his courses. He showed the committee how deeply he connects with students in his portfolio statements, noting that he has an open door well beyond the limits of office hours for students to discuss course content—or simply life. In various unsolicited student emails, students sang his praises, writing back to thank him for his classes even after graduation. One student, in fact, wrote to express regret that his classes at his current university weren’t as good as the ones he had with Jim.
While recognizing that dates have importance, Jim tends to have his students focus more on the overall order of events, emerging patterns, and consequences in history, pushing students beyond rote memorization to higher-level analytical thinking. During the classroom observation, Jim put students into the role of the U.S. during World War II: if you were the U.S., what would you have done and why? For this task, students had to first understand the historical events to answer this question and then apply their knowledge to defend hypothetical actions they would have taken. The level of exchange around this question alone proved to the observer that Jim had promoted learning well beyond the surface facts of history. A significant portion of the students engaged in the discussion without prompting. At one delicate point, two students were on the cusp of a heated exchange after one made an off-hand generalization about Japanese people. Jim managed to acknowledge the historical context of the initial comment and take into consideration the other student’s modern day concerns, de-escalating a potentially negative situation and using it as a learning opportunity. Being able to manage a classroom discussion with such finesse underscores why Jim is deserving of this award. Throughout the observation, it was evident that Jim made history connect to students’ lives, making history real and fostering intellectual and life skills that would apply well beyond a history exam.
Jim’s teaching portfolio not only showed that he is an excellent instructor, but it also demonstrated his involvement in larger campus initiatives. For example, Jim participated in the ACA instructor training in order to better advise and relate to his students. He also served on Faculty Council in various leadership roles, and then on Faculty Association as the interim chair when the college was transitioning between council and committee structures. In the Arts, Sciences, and University Transfer Department, Jim has been involved in leading the Humanities and Social Sciences lecture series in addition to working on other long-term projects, such as evaluating the outcomes of the previous “cornerstone courses” for A.A. and A.S. programs. Furthermore, each semester he usually ends up mentoring the largest number of Honors Projects. This is a testament to his willingness to help students as well as the connection students make with him.
2016 Excellence in Teaching Award: Shannon Hahn
Shannon Hahn, Instructor of Spanish and Chair for Foreign Languages, is the 2016 Excellence in Teaching Award recipient. Shannon’s portfolio was an excellent demonstration of how she goes above and beyond the requirements of her position to make sure that our students are receiving the best possible education. As a foreign language instructor, Shannon realizes the unique opportunity that she has to connect with her students since the basis of language learning is getting students to talk about themselves. She requires them to use the language to write personal goal portfolios and tell their stories. This connection is continued in her involvement with Arts, Sciences, and University Transfer (ASUT) leadership, advising, and her work with the University Transfer blog.
Shannon’s willingness to always be on the front lines of technology at Durham Tech is also impressive. She was an early adopter of online sign-up for advising appointments using the YouCanBook.Me website to manage her Outlook calendar effectively. Students in Shannon’s Spanish classes create websites about Spanish language writers, artists, and others. Her interest in creating accessible materials for a hearing-impaired language student gave her the opportunity to create higher quality materials that serve all students better. Her skills in delivering material online have even earned her national recognition in the form of the 2014 Teaching with Sakai Innovation Award.
Furthermore, Shannon’s incorporation of Integrated Performance Assessment (IPA) has helped her focus on how her classroom and out-of-class activities help her meet not only the student learning outcomes of her classes but also the World-Readiness Standards of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.
Finally, professional development is clearly critical to Shannon’s career. She takes as many opportunities to improve her teaching skills, but she also puts her skills to use in service to the college community. Shannon’s involvement in helping to redesign the college’s infrastructure has been crucial, and she continues to champion the new structure as it has been rolled out this year. Shannon also works hard to advocate for students in her work with the Transfer Center to create a University Transfer College and Major Interest Form in order to provide targeted information to University Transfer students.
2015 Excellence in Teaching Award: John Lance Lee
John Lance Lee, Instructor of Spanish and Coordinator of Faculty Development, is the recipient of the 2015 Excellence in Teaching Award. Lance’s teaching portfolio stood out because it demonstrates such careful thought and deliberate attention to the cycle of curriculum development. Lance does not simply teach Spanish to his students; he creates a learning environment that allows students to engage with language learning through real-world, authentic tasks. Lance has been instrumental in the development of Integrated Performance Assessments (IPA) in the Foreign Languages department. These assessments require students to demonstrate language competency in very real and meaningful ways, ways that may prove useful outside of the college classroom. In fact, one student wrote, “I was able to translate for a cashier at Wal-Mart. It felt great to be able to speak and understand the language, but even better being able to help someone.”
Lance’s all-encompassing, research-based teaching philosophy is designed to cultivate students as whole persons. This is evident in his interactions with students and colleagues around the world through social media as well as through his belief that happiness and success come from a state of mind and a choice. Students must learn to choose the perspective from which they will look at their life; they must choose for themselves to be happy and successful, smart and capable.
Finally, Lance is a staunch advocate of community colleges and the students they serve, calling them an “often overlooked gem in education.” His involvement with campus committees and initiatives like PRESS for Completion and Achieving the Dream coupled with his firm belief that good instruction starts with collaboration further emphasize his representation of the excellence Durham Tech exemplifies.
2014 Excellence in Teaching Award: Kerry Cantwell
Kerry Cantwell is the recipient of the 2014 Excellence in Teaching Award. Kerry, instructor of College Success, exemplifies the characteristics of excellence in every role she plays at the College, and she was chosen as this year’s recipient based on her unwavering dedication to student success, overwhelming commitment to the Durham Tech community, and outstanding approach to creative leadership.
From her work in the ACA classroom to her work with Study Abroad in the Dominican Republic, it is clear that Kerry’s commitment to students is informed by a deep understanding of their needs and a strong obligation to provide avenues for their successes at every possible turn. Kerry’s teaching philosophy is infused with a desire to see students develop as whole individuals and to be an advocate of and facilitator for that development. She states that “Students don’t change simply because of what we teach them; they change through their own discoveries. My job is to facilitate these discoveries.” This philosophy is evident to even her students. One student writes in an instructor evaluation, “My ACA instructor has a positive view on life, and she has helped me understand that I am on the right path of doing what is good for myself that will enable me to become a successful person. She has guided me this far and every time I attend class, I feel more con
Outside of the classroom and her direct work with students, Kerry demonstrates an admirable commitment to the development of this institution and her colleagues. She has served on numerous committees and teams and is often the organizer of (either officially or unofficially) or deeply involved in many campus shenanigans, including the Durham Tech Community Circle (which brings us such campus favorites as Harvest Feast and Just Desserts) and the 2013 Campus Fund Drive Committee which brought us the hugely successful promotional video “Mission Possible.” When she is not organizing or getting deeply involved, Kerry is often the loudest cheerleader in attendance, and her distinctive laugh has been known to brighten a room.
Kerry will represent Durham Tech as its nominee for the 2014-2015 state-wide Excellence in Teaching award sponsored by the System Office.