Everyone has a favorite-teacher story – the memory often ingrained for life of a particular instructor whose love of the profession has proven inspiring. At Cuyamaca College, the Academic Senate each year recognizes one full-time and one part-time instructor selected by a faculty committee based on student nominations, rankings and reviews.
|Debra Babylon in her art class|
Her students say her passion for teaching makes her a standout instructor. Before state budget cuts forced the art department to cut back on independent-study classes, Babylon’s personalized tutoring of her advanced students in developing their portfolios helped a number of them gain entry into top art schools. The San Francisco Art Institute has awarded prestigious scholarshipsto her most exceptional protégés.
Sitting in Babylon’s basic painting class, it’s immediately evident that making art approachable is a priority. Students find her patient and say she’s able to critique their work without bruising egos.
Kyle Martinez, who recently graduated from the University of San Diego with a degree in interdisciplinary humanities, enrolled in the class to get a basic understanding of art. He believes the fundamentals will come in handy as he pursues his dream to manage a museum.
“I’ve never taken a painting class before, but the instructor makes the concepts easy to grasp, and I’ve been able to learn very quickly,” he said. “I’ve found that this class is not just a painting class, it’s an experience. Sometimes you walk in here and there’s classical music playing in the background. This is a class that is steeped in art of all forms.”
|Judge Eddie Sturgeon|
He engages students with his Socratic method of teaching, sprinkled with a hint of Perry Mason dramatics. As he teaches, Sturgeon stalks the room, suddenly stopping with a punch to the air to highlight a key point in his lecture. His voice rises as he interjects a courtroom story to lend a real-life relevance to a legal concept.
“He’s awesome,” student Amy Cazares said. “The stories he tells make it easier for me to understand.”
Sturgeon said he is constantly impressed by the commitment shown by his students, especially since most are older students who put in an eight-hour workday before coming to class. He recalls a particular student – a working mother – who rode a bus from Chula Vista to take his class.
He laughs when reminded that he also fits teaching into his busy schedule as a Superior Court judge.
“I always learn something from my students and it’s a way for me to keep in touch with the younger generation,” Sturgeon said. “It’s a two-way street. I once had a student ask me a very insightful question that probably changed the way I viewed a particular issue relating to family law.”
One only has to peer out the window of Sturgeon’s fourth-floor courthouse office to get a sense of his deep East County roots. He can point out the first schools he attended: Ballantyne Elementary, El Cajon Valley Junior High School and -- if you crane your neck a bit – El Cajon Valley High School.
He still resides in East County with his wife of 25 years with whom he had three sons, all college-aged. He hopes one pursues a legal career, much like he encourages his students to continue on to law school.
“No matter what you’re going to do, you can always use a law degree in any field,” he said. “Community college is an excellent place to start. You’re going to see the practical side of the profession and it will help determine if you’re really interested.”