Pellissippi State honors innovation, dedication among employees

Employee Award Winners
The Innovations Award winning team. Alphabetically, Brenda Ammons, Kristy Conger, Stephanie Gillespie, Angela Lunsford, Martha Merrill, Deanne Michaelson, Paul Ramp, Trish Roller, Allison Stein and Kellie Toon.

Pellissippi State Community College honored innovation and dedication among its faculty and staff at a ceremony in April.

Judy Sichler
Judith Sichler

Judith Sichler, an assistant professor teaching anthropology, won the Excellence in Teaching Award.

Pellissippi State alumna and Sichler’s former student, Heather Woods, praised her in a nomination letter. Woods is currently a graduate teaching assistant at the University of Tennessee.

“I chose to take a human origins class at Pellissippi to fill an elective requirement … I enjoyed her [Sichler’s] teaching so much that first day that I immediately added myself to her prehistoric archaeology class,” said Woods.

Woods, a first-generation college student who returned to college as an adult, working mother, had a goal of becoming an English teacher. But she was so inspired by Sichler’s teaching that she eventually changed her major to anthropology.

“More than 20 years of dreaming and planning for an English degree ended up in second place to anthropology,” Woods said. “Dr. Sichler literally made such an impact in my education and life that I am following in her academic footsteps. Any college would be hard-pressed to find even one professor with her skills, heart and dedication.”

Annie Gray
Annie Gray

Annie Gray, English professor and Service-Learning coordinator, is the Gene Joyce Visionary Award winner for her creation and management of Pellissippi State’s Service-Learning program, which combines community service and civic responsibility with traditional classroom learning. Last year, 2,677 student volunteers served more than 37,000 service hours in the community, for an estimated impact of around $887,759.

“People thrive when connected to causes bigger than themselves,” Gray said.

Gray has been recognized across the state and the nation for her work. The Tennessee Board of Regents, Pellissippi State’s governing body, has encouraged all its institutions to adopt Service-Learning programs because of her program’s success. Tennessee Campus Compact recognized Gray with the Tennessee Treasure Award in 2014, and the Service-Learning program was named a President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll winner in 2015.

This year is Gray’s last as Service-Learning coordinator. She is returning to the classroom, and a full-time director will manage the Service-Learning program. Gray donated the monetary portion of the Gene Joyce Visionary Award to the Pellissippi Pantry, a food pantry for students in need at Pellissippi State.

A team of faculty and staff representing each department in the college won the Innovations Award for their creation of a training program for faculty on best practices for using online teaching platforms. Online courses are becoming a more popular option for students. The training helps faculty learn to better use online platforms to create more meaningful experiences for students. All faculty members at Pellissippi State have completed at least level one of the training, which introduces faculty to Pellissippi State’s online learning platform, D2L — which is used in many classes, not just those that are online. The level two training is required for faculty members who teach any hybrid or online courses.

The Innovations Award team includes Brenda Ammons, Kristy Conger, Stephanie Gillespie, Angela Lunsford, Martha Merrill, Deanne Michaelson, Paul Ramp, Trish Roller, Allison Stein and Kellie Toon.

Pellissippi State Foundation board members select the recipients of the Excellence in Teaching, Innovation and Gene Joyce Visionary awards based on nominations. Recipients also receive a monetary award provided by the Foundation.

Additional college awards for employees recognize excellence among faculty and staff:

  • Outstanding Contract Worker: Amy Satkowiak
  • Outstanding Adjunct Faculty: Gabe Crowell
  • Outstanding Full-time Faculty: Alex Fitzner
  • Outstanding Administrator: Kathy Byrd
  • Outstanding Support Professional: Aneshia Brown
  • Outstanding Technical/Service/Maintenance: Scott Bell

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865-694-6400.

Christie Cunningham to speak as Pellissippi State Commencement speaker

Christie Cunningham
Christie Cunningham

Award-winning faculty member Christie Cunningham will join hundreds of Pellissippi State Community College graduates as the speaker at the college’s Commencement ceremony Dec. 9 at 8 p.m. at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Cunningham, an assistant professor in Natural and Behavioral Sciences, is this year’s Excellence in Teaching Award winner at Pellissippi State, as well as a 2016 winner of a national John and Suanne Roueche Excellence award.

“I’m planning to speak to students about what to do when life throws something unexpected your way,” Cunningham said. In spring, her husband was diagnosed with cancer and is currently undergoing treatment.

“When life knocks you down, when people tell you no, when doors close in your face, you have to continue. You have to put one foot in front of the other and keep working toward your goal. It’s during these times that your character is built,” Cunningham said. “It’s been a difficult road, but I try to take one day at a time, put aside my problems and provide the best learning experience possible for my students.”

Cunningham has been recognized this year for her innovative teaching techniques and the positive impact they’ve had on her students. She has integrated technology, hands-on activities, group projects and other learning methods to increase student engagement in her psychology courses.

“Learning should be engaging and active, and if you can make it fun, that’s even better,” Cunningham said.

One of the ways she encourages her students to proactively study throughout the semester is to play “Jeopardy” using questions and answers that the students compile over the course of the semester.

“Something like ‘Jeopardy’ is a way to comprehensively study for a final exam, but it’s competitive and fun and doesn’t feel as worrisome as studying for a cumulative test,” Cunningham said. “And I see through test scores that techniques like this help with long-term retention.”

Other techniques she uses are role-playing — for instance, role-playing what it might be like to have a mental or physical disability — and hands-on activities like using household items to discuss the physical functionality of the human eyeball or the brain’s neural pathways.

To request accommodations for a disability at Commencement, contact the executive director of Equity and Compliance at 865-539-7401 or accommodations@pstcc.edu. For more information about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865-694-6400.

Department of Education awards $1.9 million grant to Pellissippi State

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The U.S. Department of Education has awarded Pellissippi State Community College a five-year, $1.9 million grant to support student success and engagement through providing comprehensive professional development for faculty.

“Faculty development is often fragmented,” said Kellie Toon, Pellissippi State’s Quality Enhancement Program director and the grant lead. “But a comprehensive professional development program will strengthen our faculty, which will in turn strengthen our students — and that’s what it’s all about.”

The grant will fund a center for teaching excellence that will include pedagogical training programs and other professional development opportunities to teach faculty members the newest and best-practice methods of teaching in meaningful, engaging ways.

“Professional development opportunities through a center for teaching excellence will give faculty the ability to lead change through academics,” Toon said. “Through improved academic quality and teaching, we can strengthen student learning and retention.”

Pellissippi State’s Quality Enhancement Program, “Strong to the Core,” focuses on improving student learning in targeted academic courses, including writing, oral communication and mathematics. Pellissippi State’s QEP was first developed as part of the college’s accreditation renewal process in 2012 through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

The QEP continues to support student success and engagement through promoting active learning techniques to faculty members — from a new faculty academy to online training and beyond.

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865-694-6400.

 

Download this press release: Teaching Excellence Grant

Pellissippi State writer-in-residence publishes two books

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Pellissippi State Writer-In-Resident Edward Francisco
Pellissippi State Writer-In-Resident Edward Francisco

Pellissippi State Community College writer-in-residence and English professor Ed Francisco has published two books — a literary textbook and a collection of poems for children.

“Mallory’s World from A to Z” was co-created by Francisco and his great-niece, Mallory Dillon, and published by Celtic Cat Publishing. The collection of alphabetical poems in large part features Ed’s and Mallory’s favorite animals, from the farm to the zoo. Nine-year-old Mallory illustrated each poem with an original drawing — sometimes illustrating a poem that had already been written, other times creating a drawing that later inspired Francisco’s poetry. Inspired by poet laureate Richard Wilbur’s Opposites series, the whimsical poems and illustrations appeal to children and parents.

“The Literary Relationships of Robert Coles and Walker Percy: An American Search for Meaning” is published by Edwin Mellen Press. The textbook explores the literary relationship and personal friendship of Robert Coles and Walker Percy, as well as the concept of “thirdness,” or the idea that humans exist and operate as trinities — that all humans have an internal mediator who can observe and reconcile the dual natures of man’s soul and man’s body.

Coles was a child psychiatrist, Harvard professor and author, winning the Pulitzer Prize, MacArthur Award, Presidential Medal of Freedom and National Humanities Medal. Percy was an author from Louisiana with interests in philosophy and semiotics. His works were awarded the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, and he helped found the Fellowship of Southern Writers.

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865-694-6400.

 

Download this press release: Francisco Published

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