Rachel Jacob-Almeida, a full-time sociology professor, and Peggie Daley, a part-time English as a Second Language professor, recently received the 2019 Award for Teaching Excellence, a recognition by students who nominate faculty members.
“Our students deserve the best and that is what they receive from our colleges,” said Cindy L. Miles, chancellor of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District. “These award winners are unparalleled in their intentional and untiring efforts on behalf of our students.”
Students who describe the full-time sociology instructor include adjectives like “inspirational” and “awesome” and she is praised for her caring, approachable presence. The four-year Cuyamaca College instructor is now chair of the History, Social and Behavioral Sciences Department.
“She really knows how to encourage us to critically think about serious issues,” one student said. “I also really appreciate how she never shouts down an opposing opinion and actually talks through the different sides of an argument.”
On the second day of spring semester classes, Jacob-Almeida faced a packed class of more than 35 students and adeptly called on them by name with nary a seating chart in sight. Students were eager to contribute to class discussions and her responses to their questions reflected a genuine interest in their thinking processes.
“I make my classes as interactive as possible,” said Jacob-Almeida. “For the past few semesters, I have been doing a little exercise where I memorize all their names on the first day of class by having each student introduce themselves and to say something unique about their names. Then I would go around the class repeating all of their names. Students have tended to be surprised at how well I do.”
A lifelong interest in social issues like racism, sexism and other forms of inequality sparked her decision to pursue a career in academia. She holds a bachelor’s in psychology from the University of California at Berkeley and a master’s and pending doctorate, both in sociology, from the University of California, San Diego. She began her teaching career as a teaching assistant at UCSD, then taught as an adjunct at the University of San Diego and Grossmont, Cuyamaca and Palomar colleges from 2011 until she was hired as full-time faculty at Cuyamaca College in 2014.
“I love that Cuyamaca College is small but growing, while also being focused on equity,” said Jacob-Almeida, whose mother, Teresa Jacob, taught psychology at Grossmont College from 1989 till her retirement in 2012. “I like that among so much of the faculty and administration there is constant discussion about what equity is and real efforts to implement the steps to close equity gaps. What this means is that there is a true focus on who our students are and what our students need, and this is precisely how a community college should be.”
“Prof. Peggie is the best ever teacher I have met,” one student wrote in his nomination. “She is always there to give a hand and help her students. She encourages us to learn.”
Effervescent and ever-cheerful, Daley hovers around the clusters of desks fashioned to get students engaged in discussions. Like a hummingbird sipping nectar, she pauses at each table, delighting in her students’ enthusiasm verbalizing that day’s lessons. Stop, listen, comment and nod approvingly. Then off to the next circle of desks to pollinate more minds.
“She has a major effect on students by her performance as well as the communication they have with their classmates,” reads another student nomination.
A part-time ESL instructor with the East Region Adult Education program since 2012 and a part-time ESL acceleration instructor at Cuyamaca College since 2014, Daley is in her element in the classroom.
“The drive and determination of ESL students really appeal to me,” Daley said
She was one of the college’s first instructors to turn remedial ESL instruction on its head by offering accelerated classes. Instead of the often unsuccessful attempts at remedial classes, students at Cuyamaca College are placed in transfer-level courses and given additional support.
The results have been so impressive that the college was honored last year with the Dr. John W. Rice Diversity and Equity Award. Last month, the California Acceleration Project awarded Cuyamaca College first ever Golden State Honey Badger award for its acceleration work. Other colleges are now replicating Cuyamaca’s initiatives.
Daley’s introduction to the teaching profession came relatively late in life. She first earned a bachelor’s in social work from San Diego State University in 1983, and a master’s degree in Human Services: Health and Wellness from Liberty University in 2013. She then worked as an administrative officer at San Diego Christian College and performed missionary service in the Philippines, Hong Kong and the Bahamas, teaching Sunday school and English to children.
When the recession hit in 2008 and Daley lost her job at San Diego Christian College, she took a friend’s advice to substitute teach. Her first assignment was in an ESL class and she discovered a new passion.
“I am humbly thankful to be on the ground floor of something great at Cuyamaca,” said Daley, who is currently pursuing a Doctorate of Education from Liberty University. “I sometime pinch myself as reassurance that this not a dream. I truly enjoy exercising the wonderful gift of teaching on a magnificent campus. My students left their countries and came to a foreign land in hopes of safety and a better life for themselves and their children. They have to overcome many barriers, but they do not give up.”
Grossmont College President’s Leadership Award
|Nabil Abu-Ghazaleh , Bryan Lam, Monica Blando, Bernadette Black, Rochelle Weiser and Elaine Adlam.|
“We recognize that it has been a longstanding tradition that this award has been given to a single person, but we are grateful to be sharing the stage together today,” Blando said as the group was presented the college’s highest honor recognizing distinguished service. “Together we have worked intensely on the governance reorganization. We started off like many, not believing that change was possible, but we worked together and through tough conversations, we learned to trust in the process. Along the way, we realized that we were being heard by administrators, faculty and students and that we truly had a seat and voice at the table. Through this, we grew as individuals, as leaders, and as a group.”