A most exciting and humbling thing happened to me recently.
On April 18, 2019 I received the 2019 Catherine H. Jacobs Outstanding Faculty-Lecturer Award from California State University Dominguez Hills. The award honors a CSUDH faculty who has demonstrated excellence in teaching effectiveness. Winning this award is quite humbling as it is an incredible honor. And I have to say, at the same time I feel incredibly proud too!
So I should have started by saying that this wasn’t just out of the blue! Sometime in November of last year, I received a call from Dr. Myron Sheu, the Chair of my department. I was stunned and felt honored to be nominated. When you are a part of a University like CSUDH, you are among some of the best teachers, so although I was aware of the award there are so many good candidates to choose from that inside I thought my chances were rather slim.
In March I got an email. Whew! An email from the university Provost. I took a gulp and opened it up and I could hardly believe it! I must have reread that email at least ten times. Wow! It was me! I actually won!
It was fun to have this very incredible honor in my thoughts as I went about my day. Do I blurt it out to people? How do you announce such a thing? Well, after that initial shock, I started to receive emails regarding the ceremony. As the details began to unfold I began to embrace the honor. To my surprise, I would be receiving the award from the President of the University, Dr. Thomas A. Parham. I was quite excited about that too! And I learned that Dr. Joseph Wen, Dean of my college, would be speaking on my achievements. It just kept getting better!
In April the big day finally arrived. When I first heard that I was getting the award I was allowed to invite family and friends to the ceremony, but I never thought they would actually forge the I-10, the 101 or even the 405 freeways just to see me get an award. Traveling 3 hours (LA Highway hours of course) felt just a bit too crazy for me, but drive they did. And I cannot tell you just how much their support meant to me as I looked out into the audience and knew they were all there.
It was a moment of incredible honor and satisfaction. Ten years ago, I had left a big job that I really loved to come and teach at CSUDH. I was Director of Computer Systems for Trader Joe’s. Each day was such an adventure at Trader Joes. I would go to work and start my day with a strong…what’s the problem of the day? That was the job—just like a puzzle. And since I love puzzles it was fun to think about how to resolve problems as quickly as possible. Everything I did, every issue was somehow affecting the people, the stores, or the systems. It felt big, and fun.
In the first couple of years at CSUDH, as I met students, whose personal issues far surpassed the most difficult problem encountered at TJs, I knew that I was in a good place, a better place. While most people count the years and days right up to their retirement, I come to work each day appreciative of the opportunity to help these students with their important relationships, financial issues, career choices, and life’s obstacles. What I do for them, one student, one person at a time, matters greatly to me. And their notes and emails of appreciation have really made this award possible. So getting the award was just as delightful for them as it was for me. The secret is that I am truly the lucky one to feel so appreciated and respected by my students.
As look back on how far I have come and relive that wonderful feeling of getting the award, it really does feel great to be recognized for what I do, and how I do it. I was delighted to accept this award and I am even more delighted to share it with the students that I teach.
Semester after semester I sit back and think about all the students and the progress. I run things in my head and I clean off my desk for another semester and another group of kids to come into my classroom and begin again. It’s just as challenging as my “big” job at Traders Joes, but I have to say, award aside, this is one really great way to spend your days working! One student at a time we move forward into their future.
I am very grateful for that.
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