Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Trio picked for annual classified employee excellence award

Veronica Nieves-Cortez
Tiffany Hungerford
Dave Steinmetz

A tutoring specialist, an audio-visual equipment tech and a campus parking staffer are this year’s picks as the top non-instructional employees in the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District.

Cuyamaca College Tutoring Center Specialist Veronica Nieves-Cortez, District Services Campus and Parking Services Specialist Tiffany Hungerford and Grossmont College Senior Instructional Media Services Technician David Steinmetz received trophies and warm praise at this month’s Governing Board meeting as the 2015 recipients of the Chancellor/Classified Senate Award.

“The dedication these classified employees have demonstrated toward their colleges and the district as a whole is greatly appreciated,” Chancellor Cindy L. Miles said. “The role they play in this district’s mission of serving students is absolutely critical. Our faculty and administrators depend on the skills and knowledge of the support staff to keep the entire operation running smoothly.”

In addition to an engraved, acrylic trophy, the classified staff members were awarded $250 Barnes & Noble gift certificates and a lunch with Miles and Governing Board President Bill Garrett. The competition for the prestigious awards was especially tough this year, with a record number of submissions received by the Classified Senate Executive Board.
“As support staff, classified employees often work behind the scenes in our collective mission to serve students, and this is an opportunity to applaud them for their invaluable efforts,” said Yvette Macy, District Services Classified Senate president and chair of the districtwide award review committee.

Veronica Nieves-Cortez
Cuyamaca College Dean of Learning and Tech. Resources Kerry Kilber Rebman, who nominated Nieves-Cortez for the award, describes her as “consistently proactive” in helping to keep the college’s multiple tutoring centers running smoothly. In addition to coordinating the operations of the college’s main tutoring center, she also oversees the lab tutoring for students in Computer Information Systems, Computer-aided Design and Drafting, Cisco and Graphic Design. For the past year and a half, she also took on the coordination of the STEM Achievement Center, which provides tutoring for students in science, technology, engineering and math classes.

Part of Nieves-Cortez’s job is tracking the multiplicity of funding sources for tutoring and ensuring that documentation is correctly submitted and on time for the funds to be available for staffing. She also took on the launching of a new online tutoring pilot program, handling the marketing of the service and introducing it to faculty and students.

“Tutoring is one of the most successful interventions we can provide in transforming lives through learning, and Veronica’s dedication to her work embodies this vision,” Kilber Rebman said.

Nieves-Cortez, who began working for Cuyamaca College in 2001 as a tutor and instructional aide before being hired full time in 2013 as a Student Services specialist, first came to the college as a student in 1999. She has gone on to earn a bachelor’s in early childhood education from California State University, San Marcos, and a master’s in teaching with specialization in special education. The native of Tijuana, Mexico, said she is very pleased and honored to receive the award.

“It was a complete surprise – it means a lot to me,” she said.

Tiffany Hungerford
As the district department that issues parking tickets, handles the lost-and-found, and responds to drivers stalled by dead batteries or keys left in locked vehicles, the Campus and Parking Services office is where people go when they are typically at their worst – grumpy and stressed out.

But as the director of CAPS puts it, when Hungerford is the person behind the counter, they invariably leave with a smile on their faces.

“People often come to our office irate over parking tickets, but with her pleasant and helpful demeanor, Tiffany is adept at reversing their hostility and they often leave thanking her for her assistance,” said Nicole Conklin, who nominated the CAPS specialist for the Chancellor/Classified Senate Award.

CAPS also provides safety escorts for anyone nervous about walking across campus alone in the evenings. With a confidence about her that suggests she is capable of handling dicey situations, Hungerford is often sought out for the service. Conklin said her ability to put people at ease with her friendly smile and easy banter is just as important.

Hired in 1998 as a community service officer, Hungerford moved into a dispatch position just months later after completing a 120-hour dispatcher training course that earned her POST (Peace Officer Standards and Training) certification. When the college district approved the on-campus pairing of the county sheriff’s department with the newly formed CAPS office in 2013 to enhance public safety and parking services at the two colleges, Conklin said Hungerford proved invaluable in the transition.

In 2014, Hungerford received a civilian commendation from Sheriff Bill Gore for the excellent performance of her duties as a dispatcher that led to the arrest of a man who assaulted a student in the parking structure. A native San Diegan raised by her grandmother, a retired Sheriff’s captain, Hungerford works easily with the sheriff’s deputies now assigned to handle law enforcement issues at Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges. Some of the sheriff’s personnel she has encountered in her work even remember her as a child, having worked with her grandmother, only the second female in the county to reach the rank of captain.

David Steinmetz
Described by his boss as Grossmont College’s go-to person for servicing the audio-visual equipment in some 150 classrooms and for providing technology support for community events using college facilities, Steinmetz is known for his unflappable demeanor as much as he is for his technical expertise. Never mind that so many of the campus events like the Got Plans College and Career Fair that draws thousands to the college are after-hours or on weekends.

“Dave does all of this with a smile,” said Tim Flood, the college’s vice president of administrative services. “He assists with setting up music department concerts and guest artist appearances. He assists with our Banned Books, Literary Arts Festival, and many other events. When he is asked to do the impossible, his first statement is ‘piece of cake,’ and he simply gets it done.”

As the person in charge of instructional media, Steinmetz is responsible for ensuring that all of the classroom technology is functioning and also helps train department members to keep them up to speed on rapidly changing technology. He also is a key person on construction project task forces, helping identify equipment and system needs and finding cost-effective approaches.

So invaluable was his expertise and advice during the college’s Prop. R bond-funded construction of a few years ago that Steinmetz was selected once before for the Chancellor/Classified Senate Award in 2012.

This time around, his selection for the prize was announced with a procession replete with a drummer and coworkers with noise-makers.

“I heard a bunch of noise – cheering and drums – and saw a line of people passing by the window heading to the door and I thought, ‘oh, man, I know what this is – I hope it’s not me.’ But it looks like they got me again,” Steinmetz said.

A student at Grossmont College during the early ‘90s, Steinmetz remembers the burgeoning of technology and its all-encompassing impact on the two colleges, particularly on classroom instruction. He finds satisfaction in contributing to students’ educational success.
“It’s hard to think of classrooms now without the smart carts and the technology that instructors now have at their fingertips,” he said. “I like knowing that I play a part in students’ education.”

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