Faculty Instructional Awards Celebrated



Although the six winners of this year’s Faculty Instructional Awards teach a variety of subjects, they share a deep concern for their students and the qualities of honesty and accessibility. Students voted electronically for their favorite instructors. Ballots were cast through the college website. To receive an award, an instructor was required to receive at least two nominations.


  The winners were introduced during the Faculty Success Center’s luncheon on May 18. They are Tammie Ortlieb, Barbara Shouldice, Beth Purdy, Jenny Ott, Debra Nelson, and Cythia Schauer. Dean of Instruction at the Arcadia Commons Campus, Grant Chandler, introduced and congratulated the winners. “Our students are very lucky that you are the ones in their classrooms on a day to day basis,” he said.

Cynthia Schauer teaches biology. A student who nominated her said, “Cynthia is one of the best teachers I have ever had in my entire college career! I am currently taking Bio 130, microbiology, with her. She is very well versed in her field and is excited to share it with us in each class.  I have never learned so much in such a short amount of time and been able to retain the information.” 

Cynthia credits her colleagues for adding to her success. “Anything that I have done in the classroom has been the result of the influence of my extraordinary colleagues,” she said. “Specifically, my colleagues in biology (Verne Mills, Darrell Davies, Gordon Bielby, Jack Bley, Ann Berger and Mary Walter) who have created a culture of learning centered high standards.”

She also relies on a simple formula to boost student achievement. “I have enjoyed making microbiology accessible to students by adopting the three Rs:  making it rigorous, relevant and helping students explore the relationship between microbiology and their life experiences,” she explained. “The laboratory is intricately interwoven with the theories we learn in the traditional lecture portion of the class.  In the labs the students use the structure of the scientific method to systematically explore the techniques and procedures of a professional microbiology laboratory.”

Tammie Ortlieb, who teaches psychology, said she works hard to create a sense of community in her classes. “I don’t believe in faces in the crowd,” she said, explaining that she thinks it’s important to get to know her students. “I can’t do the job that I have if I don’t treat you like a person and not just a face in the crowd. I need to know why you showed up here.”

Tammie said she works hard to equip students with skills that will carry them far beyond the classroom. “We need to craft our lives around our strengths so that everybody benefits,” she said.

Jenny Ott is a Communications instructor. One of the students who nominated her said, “Jenny loves what she does and it shows in everything she teaches. She always has a smile on her face. She's not just a teacher at KVCC. She's a motivator and an inspirational leader.” She describes herself as passionate and fun. “This course will change the quality of your life,” she tells her students. “If you can change communication you can change people’s lives.”

She said she loves the sense of community at Kalamazoo Valley. “People reach out and care about each student’s success,” she said. “This is a special place. You get smiles from people in the hallway.”

Jenny said she was surprised and humbled to receive the award. She said she’s amazed “that we even have an award like this” and said the honor has inspired her to be even better. She said she thinks so many of her colleagues deserve to be recognized. “Our students are so lucky to have such a great, collaborative faculty,” she said. “We challenge people to rise to their personal best. We’re a community of people reaching their goals and every day somebody makes it.”

Deb Nelson teaches accounting. She said she sees herself as a guide in the classroom. She tells her students, “This school pays me to guide you.” She said she loves inquisitive students and works hard to make sure that everyone understands the content. She welcomes input from students. “I always want to grow and challenge and improve,” she said.

A student who nominated Nelson said, “I failed accounting last semester and this semester I am getting an A. She makes learning accounting fun and easier than I thought it could ever be.” “Receiving the award made me feel fantastic because the students are our customers here,” Deb said. She called Kalamazoo Valley “a great place for teamwork and cooperation.”

Barbara Shouldice is another accounting instructor to receive a Faculty Instructional Award. “I learn through hands-on so my feeling is very strong that I teach hands-on,” she said. Barbara said she finds it exciting when students in her first class begin to grasp accounting and decide to stick with the program. “I just love my students,” she said. “They bond as a group and they stay together for the rest of their program.”

Barbara said she feels fortunate to work with so many helpful staff members. “Faculty and staff interact so much,” she said, “My life would be nowhere near as easy without them. We all work together and we interact well. Everybody cares about the students. That makes the difference.”

Beth Purdy is an art instructor at the Center for New Media. She called the award a high honor and said so many of her fellow instructors are deserving of praise. She said she loves the atmosphere here. “There’s great support and camaraderie at the Center for New Media,” Purdy said. “We all work together as a team.”

She said she loves it that her students come from such a variety of backgrounds and talents and that she and her colleagues all complement each others’ strengths. “Our graduates get the best,” she said. “We offer a well-rounded education.”

Vice President for Academic Services, Bruce Kocher, complemented the instructors. “We’re in the economic development business big time,” he said. “What you do here every day is changing people’s lives for the better and I applaud you for it.”

The Faculty Instructional Awards were established last year to give students an opportunity to recognize their instructors for their excellence. The recipients received commemorative certificates and their names will be added to permanent plaques for display at both campuses.