A Day in the Life of an SCF Professor
It comes as no surprise to those who witness their dedication that our professors are the most frequently cited reason that SCF stands out in the minds of students and graduates. Repeatedly we hear such comments as: "My professor knew my name; I wasn't just a number." . . . "My professor saw a spark in me that gave me confidence I could succeed." . . . "My professors here are superior to the university professors at my old school." . . . "My toughest professor also was the best. I knew I mattered to him."
Here are the faces of exceptional SCF instruction. Meet several of the SCF faculty; find out what they do each day and why they love to teach.
Danny Fuerstman discovered his enthusiasm for teaching after earning his M.A. in Political Science and starting on a Ph.D. in Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education. Realizing that his initial desire to combine an interest in politics with research of higher education was not for him, he followed a mentor's advice and took a job as an adjunct instructor at two Midwest community colleges.
His educational experiences make him understanding of students who struggle to find their niche. Fuerstman relishes the challenge of teaching students with varying levels of knowledge and interests, understanding that many of them are not political gurus. But students who are fascinated with politics benefit from Fuerstman's first-rate coaching as members of SCF's Model United Nations (U.N.) class that attend a conference where they represent countries by participating as delegates and drafting and sponsoring resolutions for committees. SCF's first Model U.N. team won Honorable Mention and Best Position Paper.
A Day at SCF: "At SCF, there's not a day that goes by that we're not having some sort of conversation about what's going on in the classroom."
Dr. Joni Pirnot discovered her gift for teaching and love for literature as a child when she overcame a severe speech impediment and helped younger children learn to read. She explains math as an art to her students, using anecdotes and life lessons to help them understand concepts that are not black or white. She gives them confidence to conquer their fears, often relating her anxiety over her childhood speech impediment to students' test performance frustration.
Pirnot's artistic view of math was uncovered as a unique gift while she was earning a Ph.D. in Pure Mathematics from the University of South Florida. When asked by her professor to create automata, which are often used in computer programming, she did them by drawing pictures rather than using an algorithm. For years, mathematicians had used a more structured design to produce one-dimensional automata. Pirnot's book, "Two-Dimensional Automata: Shift Spaces and Recognizable Languages," was the first concrete example of what two-dimensional automata would look like. Google and Microsoft offered jobs on the spot when she presented at conferences in Italy and the Czech Republic. But Pirnot was not interested. There is nothing that she would rather do more than meet 200 students each semester.
A Day at SCF: "It's about getting up every day and seeing my students and knowing that I am making a difference in their lives."
Isera Tyson belongs to a distinguished lineage of faculty members who have cemented SCF's longstanding reputation in the community. An SCF alum, Tyson became the College's first African-American female to be promoted to full professor in 2004 and was taught and mentored by Constine Gillyard, the first African-American male to earn the distinction at SCF.
Tyson leads her students by example, practicing lifelong learning as an avid reader and staying up-to-date on teaching trends to implement strategies that capture students' attention. Her greatest reward is watching students graduate from SCF and earn exceptional grades when they transfer to four-year universities. Her influence reaches beyond the classroom as she encourages student athletes as a member of the Basketball Team Mentoring Committee.
In 1999, Tyson won the National Council of Black American Affairs Southern Region Johnnie Ruth Clarke Award for excellence in teaching. She is a member of Phi Theta Kappa and active in Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, one of the largest African-American women's organizations in the world.
A Day at SCF: "Sometimes, I have to tap dance on the desk if that's what it takes to teach them about comma splices, paragraph development and supporting ideas. I want to make sure they acquire the best education that SCF can offer even if it means I tap dance on the desk."
Dr. Matthew Keirle realized his love for teaching as an undergraduate biology student. He worked stints as a high school teacher, lab instructor and summer preparatory course instructor while pursuing two master's degrees and a Ph.D. By the time he completed his dissertation for his Ph.D. in Evolutionary Biology, Keirle was more convinced than ever that he preferred teaching over researching and writing for publications and grants.
Dedicated to developing a high level of rigor in the curriculum, Keirle has focused on engaging students in science and giving them the resources to succeed, including a popular hands-on Diversity and Ecology Lab at Mote Marine Aquarium in Sarasota. In addition to teaching and revamping courses, Keirle has played a pivotal role in the Biotechnology Alliance for Suncoast Biology Educators (BASBE) pilot project, funded by an NSF grant. BASBE integrates high school teacher training with the use of sophisticated biotechnology tools to increase students' interest in and preparation for biotechnology and other 21st century careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields.
A Day at SCF: "It really has to do with making sure that you're inspiring students to meet a higher level of achievement. My experience has been that if you really challenge students and you expect a lot from them, they rise to the challenge."
After dedicating more than 30 years to the local health care industry, Dr. Keri Hockett hasn't finished making her mark on a profession that relies on highly skilled workers to provide a strong quality of life for the community. Hockett trains and challenges nurses to influence health care practices that improve patient care.
Hocket particularly enjoys working at the bachelor's level because the students are already practicing nurses who can relate to her world in the medical profession. She shares with them her wealth of knowledge and experience as a clinician, an administrator, a leader, and a manager who has hired many people and managed millions of dollars.
Her teaching has paid off. Students from the first B.S.N. cohort have excelled, going on to enroll in master's degree programs at prestigious institutions including Duke University and in doctoral programs such as Florida State University and University of Central Florida.
A Day at SCF: "SCF is a nurturing environment of exceptional thinkers and scholars who are masters of their craft. No one is focused on a personal agenda. It's always about the student. They love to teach here, and that's what I love, too."
Most people embrace the entertainment-driven world as a means to escape reality, but for Del Jacobs, it is his reality. His expertise on the subject is evident in his most recent book, "Interrogating the Image: Movies and the World of Film and Television," which explores the effects of living in a media-saturated world.
Jacobs experiences the best of both worlds in entertainment and education as a professor at SCF. He shows films produced by professors and students in his classroom theatre, serves as the SCF Film Club advisor, and stays active in the community as a member and advisor for the Sarasota Film Commission and Sarasota Film Festival.
Jacobs' love for film is contagious at SCF where he is working with other departments to design and teach new courses that incorporate film into the curriculum in areas such as language and literature, philosophy, art and religion.
A Day at SCF: "For me, the most rewarding teaching experience is witnessing students' success. Whether they get a great grade on a paper or come up with an original thought or explanation, I am so proud that they are learning as a result of my guidance and interaction with them."
SCF Speech Instructor Jennifer Quick teaches students skills beyond delivering eloquent speeches. She models the valuable role of communication as a key to succeeding in every area of life.
Her interpersonal class is popular with students who learn the value of communication across all disciplines and throughout life. The class is an eye-opener for many students. One student from Haiti grew up believing that the only way to resolve conflict was through violence, but she vowed to apply the principles she learned in class to future social, marital and professional issues. She continues to rely on Quick as a strong mentor.
Quick's influence on SCF students extends beyond the classroom. Quick founded the Athletic Faculty/Student Mentoring Program to help student-athletes stay in college, maintain high academic performance, complete the transferring process, and support them at their games. Throughout her own life, Quick has leaned on mentors whose gentle nudges or stern warnings were what she needed to become the teacher she aspired to be.
A Day at SCF: "I help students improve their confidence by letting them know that I believe in them and that they are capable. Then, I allow them to evolve as unique individuals within the classroom."
As director of SCF's Early Childhood Education Program, Dr. Kathryn Stuckey's unassuming demeanor is the perfect cover for her strategy to challenge students to stay on top of their work. For example, she carefully plants unexpected tips for extra credit points in her syllabi as a way of determining if students are reading their assignments.
Stuckey's understanding of human nature comes after years of experience gleaned from teaching students from preschool age to college. She has worked as a manager and teacher for early childhood at-risk programs and organizations in profit and nonprofit settings. Her methods have evolved as she moved from preschool to adult students, but her basic approach remains rooted in a belief that learning should be fun for all ages.
Stuckey earned a bachelor's degree in business administration and secondary education. She graduated from Nova Southeastern University with a master's degree and doctorate in education with a major in organizational leadership and specialization in nonprofit for early childhood education.
She is a member of the governor-appointed Early Learning Advisory Committee, a reviewer for the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, and a validator for the National Association for the Education of Young Children accreditation process. Stuckey's ties to local, state and national child care communities have proved to be a valuable asset in developing SCF's bachelor program.
A Day at SCF: "By making the classroom an exciting place, I am offering my students a reprieve from their busy schedules keeping up with work and family demands," she said.
Dr. Andy Swanson's passion for teaching began as a graduate student when he was a teaching assistant for a professor who had difficulty communicating with his students. Swanson became the "interpreter" for students who were unable to understand the material, and he discovered his love for taking complex information and breaking it down to clearly explain it to students.
Swanson's level of commitment to his students extends beyond explaining concepts in a textbook to showing them by example how to pursue their dreams with passion. Swanson accompanies students to Central America to educate them about the culture and teach them alternative agriculture as a means to save the rainforest. One year, a student who was lacking direction in her life accompanied them on the trip. She was touched by the people's living conditions and limited access to water and natural resources. She found her life's calling and now has her own foundation in Haiti where she works on water issues and women's rights.
As one of only a handful of people in the world to be considered an expert on the biogeography of slime molds and cellular slime molds, Swanson has published numerous scholarly articles, presented at conferences in the United State and Canada and served as a peer reviewer for several journals. Still, teaching continues to be his focus. He has been a part of the success of the popular summer Crime Scene Investigation Program, as well as the launch of the new Associate in Science in Biotechnology degree and Biotechnology Alliance for Suncoast Biology Educators (BASBE) pilot project.
A Day at SCF: "I try to communicate the importance of what they're learning by taking an informal approach to teaching and getting to know my students individually. I want my students to be excited about what they do in life."
As SCF director of emerging technologies, Adrienne Gould-Choquette oversees SCF's Bachelor of Applied Science in Energy Technology Management Program and has spearheaded the redesign of the Associate in Science in Construction Management Technology and Associate in Science in Engineering Technology degree programs to emphasize sustainability and alternative energy. The associate programs are housed at SCF Venice in new labs where Gould-Choquette trains students on industry standard equipment and technology, giving them valuable, hands-on experiences to remain at the forefront of emerging technologies.
Gould-Choquette earned bachelor's and master's degrees in mechanical engineering and received the Graduate Teacher Assistantship Award and was inducted into the Golden Key Honor Society and Tau Beta Phi Engineering Honor Society. She worked as an engineer before joining the SCF faculty. Committed to exposing students to the most cutting-edge resources, Gould-Choquette has presented at conferences, served on sustainability panels and is working on an e-textbook, "Sustainable Solutions for a Bright Future." She also is enrolled in a Graduate Program in Sustainability at Harvard University.
A Day at SCF: “I enjoy finding new approaches of sharing knowledge so that my students grasp important concepts that are critical to their success. My students’ aha moments are the most rewarding part of teaching.”
Dr. Susan Sheffield is a role model for her students as she helps them make the transition from another career into teaching through SCF’s Educator Preparation Institute. Sheffield took a similar path. Following graduation, she considered becoming an English teacher, but there were few openings at the time. Instead, she married a U.S. Air Force veteran and started a family. Sixteen years after earning her English degree, Sheffield completed an alternative certification program and landed her first job teaching English and remedial reading at a junior high school.
After years of education experience and earning a Master of Arts in Special Education/Varying Exceptionalities and Ph.D. in Special Education/Curriculum and Instructor/Teacher Education, Sheffield came to SCF as the director of the Educator Preparation Institute to prepare people with at least a bachelor’s degree to become eligible for the Florida Department of Education’s professional teaching certificate and successfully transition into teaching careers. Recent legislative changes in measuring teacher effectiveness and compensating teachers’ performance is showing SCF’s nimbleness in meeting community needs. Sheffield is revamping the program to more closely align with the new evaluation criteria in Manatee and Sarasota counties school districts.
A Day at SCF: “When students tell me that they want to be a teacher more than anything in the world, I understand and it makes me feel really good.”
Since coming to SCF in 1990, Patrick Patterson has helped build the Radiography Program's longstanding tradition of success. For more than 20 years, SCF graduates have excelled on the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists examination with 100 percent passing. His students' high pass rate on the exam is a result of his patience with helping them grasp important concepts.
Patterson's commitment to the profession of radiography is evident. He is certified in radiologic technologies, radiography and nuclear medicine, and is an on-call nuclear medicine technologist at Manatee Memorial Hospital in Bradenton. In past years, he has served as secretary for the Florida Association of Radiologic Science Professionals (FARSP), as coordinator for the Radiologic Technology Educator Seminar cosponsored by the Association of Educators in Radiologic Technology, and as chair and co-chair of the legislative committee for the Florida FARSP. He earned a Master of Science in Instructional Design for Online Learning from Capella University to enhance his program and become more effective in doing what he loves most – teaching. Patterson also spends weekends helping students prepare for the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists at state seminars. His knack for making difficult concepts interesting to his students has been apparent in their success.
A Day as SCF: "When I see the light come on, it keeps me going. That's what I really enjoy about teaching."
Dr. Elizabeth Vargas Dowdy inspires her students through personal experiences, challenging them to pursue their dreams no matter what challenges they face.
Dowdy is a first-generation American raised by immigrants from Mexico. Although her parents knew English fairly well, they only had an elementary school education and wanted her to make the most of her opportunities. Her life changed dramatically when she took a secretarial job in 1980 at SCF, then Manatee Junior College. Here, she met many mentors who encouraged her to continue college. Since then, she received an Associate in Arts from SCF, Bachelor of Arts in English, Master of Arts in Spanish and Ed.D. in Educational Leadership.
Dowdy returned to SCF in 1990 to teach Spanish, design and implement a curriculum for foreign language courses and labs, and assist in scheduling classes and hiring and mentoring faculty. She tries to open students' minds to new ways of doing things. To encourage her students, Dowdy shares anecdotes from her childhood and uses visuals such as Google Earth to show them the house where she grew up in the border town of El Paso, Texas. She helps her students understand that if they have difficulties in their lives, they can overcome them.
A Day at SCF: "I tell my students my story because I didn't have the best family home, and I understand their struggles. Many of my students are Hispanic and first-generation college students with a similar background so when I tell them the way that I grew up and succeeded despite my obstacles, it's a big example for them."