5 Central Arizona College professors earn George Fridell/NISOD awards

April 1, 2009

PINAL COUNTY, Ariz. – His teaching methods may have been unorthodox, but to George Fridell it just made sense - common sense.

And man, did he love to teach.

“His standards were extremely high,” Al Chew, a longtime Central Arizona College professor, said of his friend and cohort. “But he was always capable of elevating the understanding and performance of his students to those high standards.”

It is those standards by which Central Arizona College measures its top faculty.

Each year CAC honors its outstanding educators, first in February with the institution’s George Fridell Excellence in Teaching Awards, then again in May with the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) Awards.

Central’s standout professors for 2008-09 are:

• Garrett Hurt – professor of diesel technology (Signal Peak Campus)
• Valerie Jensen – professor of speech communication (District)
• Kinsey McKinney – professor of English (Aravaipa Campus)
• Susan Ramos – professor of art (Signal Peak Campus)
• Zdenek Kaspar – professor of culinary arts (Florence Center/Arizona State Prison)

Formerly known as the President’s Award, the George Fridell Excellence in Teaching Award is presented annually in memory of Fridell who passed away several years ago.

Winners are chosen based upon their willingness to further their own knowledge; engage and support students and student knowledge; use a variety of new concepts and teaching methods; and participate in the college’s community activities.

Recipients must meet the following criteria:

• Demonstrate excellence in the teaching/learning process
• Be actively involved in student learning (inside and outside the classroom)
• Demonstrate use of a variety of teaching methods
• Actively and successfully integrate technology in the classroom
• Actively demonstrate innovation, which facilitates student learning
• Incorporate into the classroom the concept that students have different learning styles
• Be active in institutional, campus and division activities

The announcement of the George Fridell Awards was made on Feb. 27 during Central Arizona College’s Faculty Development Day at the Corporate Center in Casa Grande. The NISOD announcement will be made during the International Conference on Teaching and Leadership Excellence hosted by NISOD at the University of Texas at Austin May 24-27.

Since 1978, the National Institute for Staff & Organizational Development (NISOD) has been dedicated to the professional development of faculty, administrators and staff; and to the continued improvement of teaching and learning, with the ultimate goal of student success.

More than 700 community colleges around the world are NISOD-members, including almost every large community college district, the majority of urban and technical colleges in the United States and Canada, and more than 200 small, rural colleges around the world.

Award Winners

Garrett Hurt - professor of diesel technology
(Signal Peak Campus)

A professor of diesel technology at Central Arizona College’s Signal Peak Campus, Hurt knows when he has made an impact in the classroom.

“When a graduate from our program comes to visit three years later to say thank you and tells us his success story, it makes sense as to why I am a teacher,” he explained. “Every fall I look forward to that new crop of students who want to become productive American workers.”

Born in Phoenix in 1970, Hurt graduated from Payson High School in 1989 before heading into the US Army for three years where he served as a diesel technician. He served in the Gulf War in 1990-91 and returned home to serve five more years with the Arizona Army National Guard in Florence.

Hurt attended Central Arizona College from 1993-95, graduating with an A.A.S. in diesel and heavy equipment technology. He moved around the country working as a diesel technician for six years before returning to Central Arizona College in 2001 to teach diesel technology and start the John Deere Construction & Forestry Technology program. 

Valerie Jensen – professor of speech communication

A member of the Central Arizona College faculty since 2005, Jensen is a native of Santa Rosa and Clearlake, Calif., having graduated from Lower Lake High School and California State University Hayward – twice.

She graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in speech communication and earned an M.A. in speech communication as well.
From 1993-2000, Jensen served as an assistant professor of speech communication at Harrisburg Area Community College located in the state capital of Pennsylvania.

She arrived in Arizona in 2000, working as an adjunct faculty in the Maricopa Community College District until landing her current role as a professor of communication.

“I am inspired by people, especially young people, who find happiness by seeking to better themselves, their relationships, our community, and the world,” Jensen said. “When I inevitably feel the weight of the world lowering upon my shoulders, I replace it with the weight of a backpack and wander around the woods for a couple of days. When I return home and remove the backpack, the weight has mysteriously disappeared.”

Zdenek Kaspar – professor of culinary arts
(Florence Center/Arizona State Prison)

A professor of culinary arts, Kaspar has overcome the challenges of teaching at the Florence State Prison, creating a flourishing program for those who need basic job training and for those who desire specialized culinary skills.

Because of the instructional setting, Kaspar has found creative ways to supplement and support his program in spite of restrictions on time, place, acceptable kitchen equipment, and even appropriate and available foods. He participates in many partnerships with other internal groups.

Kinsey McKinney – professor of English
(Aravaipa Campus)

A native of Tucson, Ariz., McKinney arrived at Central Arizona College in January of 2004 to serve the institution as a professor of English. Her home office is located on the Aravaipa Campus in Eastern Pinal County.

McKinney, however, didn’t stay in Tucson long, moving to a more rural region of Arizona until beginning her undergraduate degree.

“By the time I was six, my family moved to Texas Canyon, Ariz., to live on a small ranch,” she explained. “I went to school in Benson from second grade through my graduation.

She returned to Tucson after high school to earn a B.A. degree in creative writing at the University of Arizona, and later an M.F.A. in creative writing from Wichita State University. She recently earned a second master’s degree in rhetoric, composition and the teaching of English at the University of Arizona.

Prior to CAC, McKinney worked with the National Center for Interpretation at the University of Arizona, then with study-abroad students in Alicante, Spain, and finally as a faculty member in Eastern Arizona College’s Communicative Arts Department where she taught composition and creative writing.

“I have taught Intro to Creative Writing for almost 10 years now and have found it to be the course that truly changes students’ perceptions about writing,” she said. “Over and over I hear students say at the course conclusion - I am a writer.”

Susan Ramos – Professor of Art
(Signal Peak Campus)

Born on a naval base in Oakland, Calif., Ramos grew up mostly in Baltimore, Md., where she graduated from Woodlawn High School. She pursued her B.A. in fine arts from Tufts University with studio classes at the Boston Museum School and finished her M.F.A. in painting from the Pratt Institute located near the artistic electricity of New York City.

“It was an exciting time back in the 1960s,” Ramos recalled. “Wanting to stay in New York City, I worked as an engineering draftsman and a knit fabric designer.”

Eventually she moved to Arizona where she raised four kids while working random jobs from Head Start to charter schools. When her kids grew up, Ramos started teaching evenings at a community college which led to a fulltime gig at Central Arizona College.
Since joining the CAC staff, Ramos has been motivated by her students.

“As with most teachers, success with students is a continual motivating factor,” Ramos explained. “Apart from that, my innate love and excitement for art keeps me going.

Students love her field trips to local art museums and exhibits, and she gets a thrill each time.

“There is usually someone in the group who has never been to a museum or art show,” Ramos said.

As a member of the Portrait Society of America, Ramos attends professional workshops from nationally-recognized artists that boost her enthusiasm.

When she is not painting and teaching, Ramos is traveling.

“A year ago I began taking groups on European tours and was able to incorporate personal slides and videos into my lectures,” she explained. “Firsthand experience is invaluable in describing art work and architecture to my students, so I have another trip planned this May.”


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