Pellissippi State honors outstanding employees

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.– Pellissippi State Technical Community College recognized the efforts of its faculty and staff at the 2008 Employee Appreciation Awards ceremony April 23. All winners received a cash award, plaque and medallion, and all retirees a desk clock, provided by the Pellissippi State Foundation.

Susan McMahon, program coordinator of Pre-nursing Education, earned the college’s highest honor for an employee, the Excellence in Teaching Award.

When McMahon couldn’t locate a suitable lab manual for her cell biology course, she wrote her own. She developed most of the experiments herself as well, including ones on bioremediation of oil spills, in which the students created an oil spill and used microorganisms to clean it up, and tissue culture, in which students cloned African violets.

McMahon joined forces with faculty in the college’s Media Technologies degree program to produce 17 DVDs to use in a nutrition course.

“Being filmed in this way was out of my comfort zone at first,” she said, “but hearing students’ positive comments has made me pleased that I made the effort.”

McMahon also developed a new course, Careers in Biology, that focuses on career opportunities in biology, medicine and agriculture.

Dulces et utiles [literally, pleasant and useful]—to instruct while delighting—this has been my personal creed for my entire education career, and I attempt to embody it here as the senior instructional technology specialist,” said Audrey Williams, winner of the Innovations Award for her work in helping faculty and students use technology to improve teaching and learning.

Williams is a technology wizard, with a trunkful of knowledge and resources to inspire her audience. One day she helps an instructor create a recording of Civil War photos and songs to use in class. Another, she demonstrates the bells and whistles buried in Microsoft Office Excel.

Yet another day she hosts a workshop on Desire2Learn (D2L) software, providing faculty teaching online with the administrative tools for recording grades, interpreting data and creating new courses.

“The number of online courses has grown from 12 sections in 1999,” she said, “to more than 105 sections in fall 2006. I now have more than 280 Pellissippi State faculty members subscribed to my Learning Online (LOL) listserv.”

Williams also maintains three blogs—Technology Tuesday, Technology Update and TeachTech—to share technology news.

“Our blog visitors are from around the world,” she said, “putting Pellissippi State and its blogs on the map!”

Gayle Wood, director of Access and Diversity, earned the Gene Joyce Visionary Award for launching and coordinating the Transition to College program.

Transition to College provides intensive instruction and guidance to high school students from underrepresented urban and rural communities to boost their chances of academic success in college. This year’s participating high schools are Alcoa, Austin-East, Central, Fulton, Gibbs, Heritage and William Blount.

All costs of the program are covered by Pellissippi State.

Transition to College, which began in 2005, had until 2007-08 been limited to a two-week learning experience. Wood applied for and received a grant that allowed the program to continue year-round.

This past fall, Pellissippi State transported students to the Pellissippi Campus who had been identified by their high school counselors as at risk for academic success. The students received several days of individual and classroom instruction in mathematics, reading and English to prepare for the ACT exam. Participants then took the ACT at the college.

Spring semester, Pellissippi State brought in a new group of students for intensive instruction and brought back for a refresher those whose scores on the ACT placed them in college developmental classes.

“Our latest data, from last summer, showed that as a result of completing the course,” said Wood, “85 percent of the participants gained at least one level on the college placement exam and 25 percent gained two levels.”

This summer, Transition to College will provide a full 30-hour week of tutoring and instruction, and Wood says she expects the exam improvement rate to climb even higher.

The program results have been presented at a National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development conference and also have been the focus of an article in “Inside Higher Ed.”

The selection committee that chose the Innovations, Gene Joyce and Excellence in Teaching winners was composed of seven Foundation Board of Trustees members. The committee reviewed materials submitted by the nominees. In addition to a plaque and medallion, Williams and Wood received $1,000 each and McMahon $1,500.

The ceremony also recognized as outstanding the following employees, each of whom was presented with a plaque, medallion and $100 check from the Foundation:

    • Ray Booth, adjunct faculty, Mathematics—Outstanding Part-time Faculty Award
    • Janis Foreman, director, Applications Programming Support—Outstanding Administrator Award
    • Marilyn Harper, assistant professor, Liberal Arts—Outstanding Full-time Faculty Award
    • Mike Looney, computer technician, Network and Technical Services—Outstanding Technical/Service/Maintenance Award
    • Lori Warneke, executive assistant, Information Services—Outstanding Support Professional Award

Peter Nerzak and Martha Merrill both received the Tennessee Board of Regents Lana Doncaster Innovations Award. Nerzak, director of Library Services, was recognized for his service statewide in distance education. Merrill, associate professor in Business and Computer Technology, was honored for her work with students using D2L software.

Phi Theta Kappa Advisor awards went to Regina Buckley for 10 years as chapter advisor and Linda Streebeck for five years.

Retiring faculty and staff: Judy Ahrens, Jane Casey, Judy Hall, Carol O’Farrell, Linda Stutzenberger, JoAnne Thomasson and Karen Whitaker.