Friday, March 10, 2017

East County college faculty lauded for service to students, campuses

Two instructors at Cuyamaca College and a counselor at Grossmont College have been honored for their contributions to their campuses and commitment to student success.

Theresa “T” Ford, a counselor and adjunct instructor at Grossmont College, received the President’s Leadership Award.  At Cuyamaca College, math instructor Katherine Naimark and Child Development instructor and program coordinator Kristin Zink received the 2017 Awards for Teaching Excellence.

 "The deep and abiding commitment of our faculty to the success of our students shines through in all that they do,” said Cindy L. Miles, chancellor of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District. “The winners of these coveted awards exemplify what makes our instructors and counselors at both colleges so very special. Our fundament mission is to serve students and they have made a difference in the lives of so many.”

Theresa "T" Ford

T Ford

In a repeat of her 1997 win, Theresa “T” Ford is this semester’s recipient of the President’s Leadership Award, one of the Grossmont’s highest honors recognizing distinguished service to the college. She shared her plaudit 20 years ago with Claudia Thompson, counselor emerita, for her role in implementing a college success program targeting first-year students.

Grossmont College President Nabil Abu-Ghazaleh described Ford as an innovative leader, a student-centered educator and an advocate for equity and diversity. In 2009 was selected for the Distinguished Faculty Award and also received an Excellence in Teaching Award. In 2007, she helped establish Umoja (an African word for unity),  a learning resource at Grossmont College that is part of a statewide program designed to bolster African-American students with counseling support, peer mentoring, and cultural and educational field trips

In her acceptance speech, Ford expressed her gratitude for working with dedicated co-workers at Grossmont College. A photo montage also paid tribute to many who mentored and nurtured her in her career as a counselor at the college since 1988 and as an adjunct instructor since 1995 in the English and Cross-Cultural Studies departments.

Social justice is a running theme in Ford’s life. As a college student in Illinois, she worked on behalf of at-risk young people sentenced to the state’s correctional facilities. She served for a time as a legal researcher for the public defender’s office and a battered women’s legal clinic. Ford is also a certified mediator trained by the National Conflict Resolution Center.

She holds a bachelor’s in political science, two master’s degrees in ethnic studies and counselor education, and a doctorate in law from Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego. She credits her parents, Edwynne and Virginia Ford, who live outside Chicago, as her first mentors and role models.

“Growing up, the walls of our home were filled with honors and awards related to fighting for civil and human rights,” she said during her acceptance speech. With a nod to past generations of former slaves in her family, Ford closed her speech with a line from poet Maya Angelou: “I am the hope and the dream of the slave.”
Kristin Zink
Kristen Zink

More than 45 years at the front of a classroom have not dimmed Kristin Zink’s love of teaching, first as a graduate assistant in Child Development at San Diego State University in the early ‘70s, then as a part-time instructor at several colleges before she became a full-time faculty member at Cuyamaca College in 1991.

 “I knew I was at home,” she said.

The chair of Child Development recalls a time when the program was called Nursery School Training. Regulatory changes have upped the requirements and certifications for her students to enter the field as preschool aides and teachers. Those wanting to advance as directors of daycare facilities typically now require bachelor’s degrees.

The San Diego State University alumna holds two master’s degrees, including one in special education from what was then Point Loma Nazarene College. She said the need for more education is one reason she is excited about a new baccalaureate program at in child development offered at Cuyamaca College through an agreement the college has signed with Point Loma Nazarene University.

 “What’s been most rewarding to me are the opening and growth and excellence of our Child Development Center and the concurrent growth and professionalism of our child development program,” Zink said. She was previously honored with an award for Teaching Excellence in 1994 and a President’s Award in 2001 in recognition of her role in making the college’s Child Development Center a reality.

Opened in August 2001, the center serves a dual purpose as a preschool for youngsters from the campus and the community,  and as a fieldwork site for students in the Child Development program.

Katherine Naimark
Katherine Naimark

Adjunct math instructor Katherine Naimark has taught at Cuyamaca College for less than two years, but in that short time her impact has been felt. As an adjunct instructor at San Diego City, Miramar and Grossmont colleges as well as at Cuyamaca College, Naimark has a keen understanding of the mission of community colleges and needs of students.

Born and raised in Moscow, Russia in a family of mathematicians, scientists and engineers, Naimark has childhood memories of brain puzzles at the dinner table and challenging friends in math contests at school. After moving with her family to Israel, she continued her pursuit of math in college, earning a bachelor’s in mathematics and physics from Tel Aviv University, and a master’s and a doctorate in math from the Weizmann Institute of Science.

In 2001, she moved to Texas and accepted her first teaching position at the University of Texas at Austin. Two years later she moved to North Carolina to teach at the historically black North Carolina Central University, an eye-opening and transforming experience.

“My NC Central students didn’t come from elite high schools; they were underprivileged African-American students, struggling with loathsome fractions in aspirations to get a college degree – and a better life,” she said. “I was furious with the inequalities that life had thrown them, but I admired these students’ spirit. I rolled up my sleeves and started doing my best to help them with what they needed so badly: making sense of math, seeing its usefulness, and maybe even its beauty.”

Fifteen years later, Naimark is taking on the same challenges at Cuyamaca College, transforming underprepared students into those capable of college-level math. Twice a week for three hours each evening, students in her accelerated statistics class work together in groups, accomplishing what was thought to be impossible: passing a transfer-level math class in just one semester.

Naimark credits fellow math faculty at Cuyamaca College for spearheading an accelerated learning approach that allows basic-skills students to enroll in college-level and remedial classes at the same time. It has proven to be a winning formula, with students quickly advancing to college-level work and avoiding the extra semesters of remedial math that were previously required. 

Naimark said she is humbled by winning the adjunct Award for Teaching Excellence, and honored by her students’ praise.

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