STC names faculty of the year honors

MCALLEN, TEXAS (July 16, 2021) – Even while managing through a global pandemic, Dr. Jennifer Guerra worked diligently to develop the pathways that would connect Culinary Arts to academic and workforce programs statewide and on a national level.

At issue during the pandemic, Chef Guerra placed a priority on ensuring that classes continued in person while ensuring a safe and active learning environment as well as student involvement.

Through Guerra’s efforts, South Texas College also developed a food pantry program to assist students in need during the pandemic.

“We are focused on being a model program. We are intentional about our actions and efforts to serve both our students and our community,” said Dr. Guerra, Chair of STC’s Culinary Arts Program. “While so much focus has been placed on the struggles created by the pandemic, we are focused on building a bright future for our students, the program, the college, and the community.”

Effectively broadsided by a global pandemic in 2020, South Texas College assistant professor of art Phyllis Leverich said she, like her peers, was suddenly forced to adapt to new strategies for teaching as classes went virtual.

Even more critical were the students themselves who were thrown into a new way of learning for which many were not prepared.

It was time for innovation, Leverich said.   

She began to evaluate and then reevaluate her online courses. The pandemic, she insisted, would motivate her to provide a new level of accessibility and student engagement.

“While many of them (students) thrive in the online environment, a lot of them were taking online classes for the first time,” Leverich said. “This is a particular challenge for art students who really benefit from the personal interaction with the instructor and other students in a traditional studio setting.

“With the students who preferred face-to-face studio instruction in mind, I restructured my online studio classes to make them as personal and as interactive as possible,” she said.

For their efforts, Dr. Guerra was named 2020 Faculty of the Year, and Ms. Leverich was named eFaculty of the year by their peers.

The purpose of the Faculty of the Year award is to recognize the extraordinary contributions and quality service of faculty members supporting the mission of South Texas College.

The Faculty of the Year award honors faculty who are committed to excellence in the five main areas of faculty performance: Teaching and Learning, Student Success, Professional Development, Leadership, and College Service, Community Service, and Creating a College-going Culture.

“While I am honored that my peers nominated me, I think that we owe it to our students to be fully committed to their success,” Dr. Guerra said. “I do not think this commitment ends at the walls of the classroom. There can be so many barriers standing in the way of our students,

“If I can help them knock the roadblocks down I will. Otherwise, I will help students get over, under, or around them so they can accomplish their goals,” she said.

Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Anahid Petrosian will recognize the two faculty members during the Fall 2021 Academic Affairs Convocation on Aug. 16, 2021.

“This outstanding achievement represents instructional innovation in teaching and commitment to academic success,” said Dr. Petrosian. “Here at South Texas College, we are fortunate to have faculty that are committed to excellence in the classroom, whether it is in a face-to-face or online environment; they are true champions of student success.”