College Selects Faculty Excellence Award Winners

Pictured clockwise from top: Bill Simcik, Irina Nizova, Judy Harris. Not pictured, V.C. Patel.   

Pictured clockwise from top: Bill Simcik, Irina Nizova, Judy Harris. Not pictured, V.C. Patel.   

The four winners of Lone Star College – Tomball’s Faculty Excellence Award for the 2009-2010 school year may teach different subjects but they share common views about the value and rewards of teaching community college students.

This year’s honorees, Judy Harris, Irina Nizova, V.C. Patel and Dr. Bill Simcik each cite a similar personal mission to lead students on successful personal quests for education while also reaching out to their academic peers and the community.

Harris, who teaches developmental English, freshman composition and sophomore literature received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from University of Arkansas – Pine Bluff and her Master of Arts in English from the University of Dallas.

Along with her regular classroom duties at LSC-Tomball, Harris serves on the district’s English curriculum committee, as a mentor for at-risk students and adjunct faculty, as a liaison for the developmental studies textbook publisher and as a member of the LSC-Tomball Faculty Senate. She is also a founding member of the school’s Celebration of the Arts program.

Harris said there are many reasons for choosing to teach at the community college level and they all involve building relationships with students as individuals,  being able to be student and class centered as an educator. It is, she said, where her heart lies – with the students and what she can do to help each one achieve their goals.

She said she is humbled and amazed to not only receive the award, but to know that one of her students nominated her.

“I feel extraordinarily blessed to be teaching in an environment where we can make a difference in people’s lives,” said Harris. To be recognized for doing it well is truly a gift.”

Nizova, who teaches English for speakers of other languages, developmental studies English and freshman English, brought with her to Texas three degrees in English and foreign language education from state teaching universities in Moscow and Sverdlovsk, Russia. She also earned a Master of Arts in linguistics from California State University, Northridge before coming to LSC – Tomball.

In addition to her teaching duties, Nizova serves on the district’s common final committee for developmental studies English and English as second language, as a developmental studies and ESL mentor for students, on the college’s Celebration of the Arts committee and on the Faculty Senate adjunct awards committee.

Nizova’s academic interest has long been language and the methods of teaching language to different groups of learners.  Her mix of students at the community college level allows her to work with a variety of students with diverse cultural, linguistic and academic backgrounds. Nizova said she enjoys watching her students grow in their academic abilities be they freshman English students or those that need a little additional instruction before moving forward in their quest for a degree.

“It gives me tremendous satisfaction to see how they develop from hesitant beginners to confident language users prepared to take on college level classes,” she said. “As an educator, I have been truly fortunate.”

Nizova said her reaction upon learning she is to receive the Faculty Excellence Award is one of gratitude and elation.

“To be recognized by my peers, a very exclusive group of educators, is very special,” she said.

Patel, who teaches math and physics courses at LSC-Tomball, is now a two-time recipient of the Faculty Excellence Award, having previously been so honored in 2004. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Education at Vikram University in India, a Bachelor’s degree in mathematics also with Vikram University and Master’s degree in mathematics at the University of Indore also in India.  Patel is also an accomplished textbook author with published textbooks in both mathematics and science textbooks for high school students.

Teaching, said Patel, is a life-long love for him as he has been teaching since 1963. He came to LSC-Tomball in 1998.

Teaching at the community college connects a teacher directly with the community and society, he said.

Patel said he was very excited though when he learned that he would again receive the Faculty Excellence Award.

“I think it is very good on the part of a teacher when your students and fellow faculty appreciate your work twice in five years,” he said.

Simcik’s educational background is one with which his students can identify. He, too, was  a community college student who went on to earn college degrees beyond his Associate of Arts degree.

Simcik holds an Associate of Arts degree from Wharton Junior College, Bachelor of Science in biology from Sam Houston State, a Master of Arts in biology from Sam Houston State and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in biomedicine from the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. He teaches biology classes for science and non-science majors and has also taught human anatomy and physiology.

In addition to his academic duties, Simcik chairs the Academic Appeals Committee, the Faculty Senate Rights and Responsibilities Subcommittee, on the Lone Star College System Policy Review Committee and LSCS Security Council as well as serving as a mentor to adjunct faculty at the college.

There is nowhere else in higher education where he would be happier, than in the classroom at the community college level. Community college, he said, is where the mind of the masses meets; where the proverbial rubber meets the road.

“We do not cater to graduate students, although we often create them. We accept students who have no declared major, although we help them find one, and in my classes we encourage and allow everyone to explain their positions on any given topic or discussion, and if they have no opinion, we help them develop one,” said Simcik.

Lone Star College System consists of five colleges including LSC-CyFair, LSC-Kingwood, LSC-Montgomery, LSC-North Harris, and LSC-Tomball, six centers, LSC-University Center, LSC-University Park, Lone Star Corporate College, and LSC-Online. With more than 51,000 students in credit classes last fall, LSCS is the largest institution of higher education in the Houston area and third largest community college system in Texas. To learn more visit LoneStar.edu