Thursday, May 30, 2013

Two Cuyamaca College employees honored for excellence

Their jobs may be different, but two employees at Cuyamaca College have a shared vision of promoting college and student success, a commitment recently recognized with a quarterly award to outstanding staff.
Cynthia “Cyndy” Bourget, instructional media services coordinator, and Linda Haar, the coordinator of the child development center, an on-campus childcare facility and learning lab, were presented the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District Chancellor/Classified Senate Award at last week’s district Governing Board meeting. Each received an acrylic trophy, along with a gift certificate from Barnes & Noble and lunch with district Chancellor Cindy L. Miles and Governing Board President Bill Garrett.
“The contributions to the district of workers like Linda and Cyndy are very deeply felt by everyone,” Miles said. “To have such hardworking, committed people serving the students, colleges and the district is critical to the district’s mission.”

Cyndy Bourget

Behind-the-scenes techie

As the instructional media services coordinator, it’s Bourget’s job to make sure the “smart carts” in the classrooms – the jumbo-sized lecterns used by instructors that contain computers, monitors, DVD players and connections to each classrooms LCD projector and screen – are working properly. She’s also the person behind the scenes when a conference or a student or campus event requires audio-visual equipment, which, these days, means she’s johnny-on-the-spot on countless occasions.
According to the nomination form submitted  by her boss, Connie Elder, dean of learning and technology resources, Bourget’s department provides support for nearly 300 non-classroom events during a typical academic year, including those in the performing arts theater, a venue used for both college and community events. 
“Cyndy regularly adjusts her hours to meet the changing demand for her services,” Elder said, giving as an example the weekend Bourget spent teaching herself how to use Prezi, a presentation software and storytelling tool, when the president of the college wanted to add some pizzazz to a speech at the college.
A born fixit-person, Bourget drove her family to distraction as a New England youngster, constantly taking things apart just so she could put them back together.
A Cuyamaca College student during the mid-‘80s,  Bourget completed her associate degree at Southwestern College, which had the multimedia production degree she wanted, then earned her bachelor’s in television broadcasting from the San Diego campus of the Union Institute and University based in Cincinnati, and a master’s in educational technology from National University, also in San Diego.
When hired by Cuyamaca College in 2008, Bourget said she was a little taken aback by the disorder of her department described by Elder as “a wretched mess” with trash in the smart carts and mismatched components that didn’t work.
It took nearly two years, but Bourget began ripping out old cabling and brought the equipment up to standard. She created procedures and a training process to keep the classroom technology that she maintained in good working condition. And always with a smile.
“She is willing to stop whatever she is doing to tackle a higher priority item,” Elder said. “She gets along with literally everyone on campus and is trusted by everyone to provide sound technical expertise. She makes people feel OK about not knowing how to do something.”
Sometimes, Bourget notes, that takes a little tact. Like the time she was called into a classroom by an instructor unable to get an image to appear on the projection screen.
“I remember looking at the computer, then up at the projector…then I walked to the projector and removed the projector lens cover,” she said. The class erupted in laughter.
A tougher challenge, Bourget said, was teaching herself the Extron controller system that operates the smart cart technology. With no one around who knew the equipment and no schematics explaining the system, Bourget began the painstaking process of trial and error.
“There are many challenges to my job, but that’s what makes it fun,” she said.
Children’s stories
Linda Haar
As the coordinator of the child development center at Cuyamaca College, Linda Haar has her share of stories and observations about the children in her care. She recalls the particular case of two foster brothers most would describe as incorrigible, but what Haar prefers to call “really challenging.”
“At one point, even the foster parents were saying they just didn’t think they could continue to have the boys live with them since they were so challenging,” said Haar, whose infinite patience and soft spot for preschoolers are probably as critical to her job as her business acumen, grant writing and networking abilities that coworkers describe as impressive. “I talked with the foster parents and we came up with a plan to help with the challenging behaviors.”
It took months, but the brothers finally began responding and, happily, a family came forward to adopt the pair, averting fears that the two would be separated.
“We were thrilled,” Haar said. “I don’t think that would have happened if we had not worked with the foster parents on those behaviors.”
The mother of two older children, as well as an 11-year-old son she says keeps her young, Haar is also a grandmother of six. A graduate of the child development program at Grossmont College, Haar went on to earn her undergraduate degree in health education from San Diego State University and her master’s in education and an elementary teaching credential.
She was hired in 1999 at Cuyamaca College as an adjunct child development instructor, then became interim coordinator of the newly opened child development center in 2002 before being promoted to her current post in 2004.
“I enjoy providing quality child care for parents going to school or working so they can do what they need to do and not worry about their children,” she said. “I like that we are a lab school and model that good quality care so child development students going out into the community to get jobs take with them that knowledge of good care.”
Haar has a favorite success story about one student whose language and cultural differences made it difficult for her to understand the acceptable practices and standard of care of the center’s young wards.
“It took four years of working at the center for her to understand, and we almost said to her that we didn’t think this field was for her,” Haar said. “But she stuck with it and we kept working with her. She went on to graduation and found a good job out in the community where she still works. She was able after a few years to buy a house for her family – it was great.”