At the start of each academic year, when I meet with new faculty members at Durham Tech, I make this point: our students are here specifically because of the faculty. Our students don’t enroll because of our history of intercollegiate athletic success or to enjoy the social environment of our residential campus, because we have neither. What we offer our students is opportunity, and they come to Durham Tech because they realize their lives can be made better through education—through the acquisition of knowledge and the development of skills that takes place in our classrooms, labs, shops, and clinical settings. And it is our faculty who possess and share that knowledge and those skills that enable our students to get what they came here for. And while they are doing that our faculty are also doing so much more.
For example, there is Julie, who, in addition to teaching a full schedule of courses in various earth sciences, has organized and coordinated two projects for students in conjunction with NASA. Meeting with the Environmental Science Club afternoons and weekends, Julie has helped students launch and recover high altitude balloons (complete with payload), design and develop mini-rovers, and arrange for internship opportunities at NASA. And I think about Chris, who comes up with creative ways to teach mathematics – ways that inspire the most unlikely students to pursue math education as a career – while driving students all across the southeast to compete with other community colleges in statewide and regional competitions.
I think about Erin, who arranges special field trips for students in the Dental Lab program, giving them the opportunity to see how advances in technology create new opportunities in the field. And I think about Sue, Kim, and Christine, who encourage Occupational Therapy Assistant students to provide the college with practical advice on campus accessibility each year.
I think about Brenda, who integrates action research into her abnormal psychology courses, giving students an opportunity to study in-depth and present on issues of global significance. And I think about Marina, who coordinates honors projects for students in a wide variety of disciplines while teaching English composition.
There is Kerry (whose classes consist entirely of new students), constantly refining her courses to provide them with the information they will need to be successful in college and beyond. Kerry and her colleague Gabby are recognized as experts in the state and the nation in making college success courses relevant and meaningful. And Michele, who serves as the faculty advisor to our business honorary society while teaching courses in information systems and networking. Each year our students in this organization win accolades in regional and national competitions.
Nate is always looking for ways to provide students in his Automotive Technology classes with experiences that mirror the workplace. Tom developed an Economics text that clearly outlines intended learning outcomes and saves students money. Lyndsay and her colleague Michelle spend their spare time helping students hone their applications for national scholarships.
Meanwhile, Steve arranges for students to engage in a project that helps children without fully-formed hands through 3-D printing technology. Paula interviews every student in her program to ensure each is properly placed in English as a Foreign Language courses. And the list goes on.
A risk of a post like this is neglecting to mention someone whose accomplishments are as noteworthy as those I’ve listed above. But perhaps a bigger risk is implying that the contributions of one faculty member is somehow more significant for the extra things they do in addition to the core responsibility of teaching and facilitating learning. So Perry and Janel, who teach English, and Greg and Tim, (Electronics Engineering), Dawn and Justin (Criminal Justice), Jim (History), Brittany (Physics), Cynthia and Sheryl and Jerry (Nursing), and every one of their colleagues all make a huge difference in the lives of their students and in the well-being of our community.
If it seems that the work of our faculty, day in and day out, goes unrecognized and unappreciated, it’s probably because their efforts are so remarkable. They are willing to constantly improve on what they do, continually do more with less (as do we all), and make contributions wherever they can. And I know they realize that the true pay-off for their efforts is found in both seemingly small “ah-ha” moments when they see the light bulb come on for the first time, and in the culmination of our students’ time with us when our graduates give our faculty a standing ovation.
Durham Tech employees, teaching and non-teaching, make incredible contributions to the lives of our students. The amazing efforts of our support staff will be the subject of another blog in the near future. But the beginning of another academic year provides me with the opportunity to reflect on many significant contributions of our faculty at Durham Tech. It is too easy to take for granted the great work they do both in our classrooms, labs, shops and clinical sites as well as their service and support around campus and in the community. Their commitment and dedication to our students and their quest for success is remarkable. I appreciate their hard work. But more importantly, our students and our community benefit from their tireless efforts.