Three Lone Star College–Tomball instructors receive Faculty Excellence Award
The three Lone Star College–Tomball instructors who have recently been named Faculty Excellence Award winners for the current year share a common belief that teaching at the community college level offers them the opportunity to mentor students in their fields of expertise while developing a stronger teacher-student relationship.
This year’s honorees, Patricia Falbo, Rachel Whitten and Bo Rollins, represent the fields of mathematics and English. Each year’s recipients are chosen from among instructors at the college who have been nominated by students or fellow instructors.
Falbo and Whitten are mathematics instructors and Rollins is an English instructor specializing in British and ancient literature.
A 20-year education veteran, Falbo began her teaching career at the secondary education level and was the first adjunct mathematics instructor hired when Lone Star College–Tomball opened its doors. She began teaching full-time at the college four years ago. Falbo earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Maryland and a Master of Science degree from the University of Houston, both in mathematics. She also holds a Texas secondary mathematics teacher certification.
In addition to her classroom duties, Falbo shares her time with students as the sponsor for a future teachers club on campus and by working in the tutoring lab. .
She describes Lone Star College–Tomball as a positive place with staff and faculty members that work well together for the benefit of the students.
“I’m delighted to be here,” said Falbo. “I feel like I’m more available to the students and have more time to be with them. I find it fulfilling to listen to them. I view myself as a mentor and sounding board as they determine the direction they want to go in life.”
A good teacher’s mission, she added, is to provide opportunities for students to be successful and give them the tools they need to find that success.
Falbo said she was surprised and honored to receive the Faculty Excellence Award.
“It’s something I’ll have for the rest of my life,” she said.
Whitten has been with Lone Star College–Tomball for four years and taught two years previously at another community college in the Houston area. She holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in math from Baylor University and is nearing completion of her doctorate degree in mathematics from the University of Houston.
After a stint as a teaching assistant while in graduate school Whitten said she knew teaching at the four-year university level wasn’t for her.
“As a grad student I had up to 200-300 students in a class,” she said. “I know a big university isn’t for me. I prefer the smaller classes.”
Smaller classes, she said, gives her the chance to know her students, she said. “The students aren’t just numbers.”
One facet of Whitten’s teaching philosophy is that of flexibility.
“Each student is different,” she noted. “They all have different concerns and backgrounds. And, what works for one student doesn’t necessarily work for another. As an instructor I have to be flexible to meet their needs in the classroom.”
While very pleased to receive this honor, Whitten believes she is simply doing the job she was hired to do, doing to the best of her ability and enjoying the ride.
“I kind of think I’m just doing my job,” she said. “Aren’t you supposed to care about your students? But, it does make you sit back and smile that someone noticed. Right now, I have fun and I leave every day with a smile on my face and that’s what’s important. ”
Rollins, an instructor at Lone Star College–Tomball since 2002, has his roots locally. He graduated from Magnolia High School and received his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts from the University of Houston along with a masters’ degree in literature from Cambridge University. He too is a doctoral candidate at the University of Houston. Prior to joining the faculty at Lone Star College–Tomball, Rollins taught for one year at Prairie View A&M University.
As a product of the community, the college’s proximity to home is a nice plus, but at Lone Star College–Tomball, said Rollins, the emphasis is on teaching and reaching the students and instructors are supported in their efforts.
“The pressure to publish isn’t there, so there is a teaching connection with the student, although I still research and publish,” he noted. “The support here is incredible. There is tremendous support professionally and practically.”
Rollins also appreciates the strong relationship between the college and the community at-large.
“This place seems to encourage that, so it benefits the community in ways beyond education,” he said.
“Most of the students I get are not English majors, but what I hope to do is create some fans (of the classics) and pass on that appreciation,” said Rollins. “Literature is the real sociology, the real psychology and the real anthropology. To be boring in an English lecture seems blasphemous and I hope I bring something to the table to make it more interesting.”
The Faculty Excellence Award was a surprise, he said.
“There are so many excellent faculty members here, so I’m really humbled to be nominated,” said Rollins. “It’s amazing to be selected. It is an honor.”
Lone Star College–Tomball, located at 30555 Tomball Parkway, is a member of the Lone Star College System. Lone Star College System comprises Lone Star College-North Harris, Lone Star College-Kingwood, Lone Star College–Tomball, Lone Star College–Montgomery, Lone Star College–CyFair, six satellite centers and The University Center. For information on Lone Star College–Tomball or any of its programs, please go to tomball.lonestar.edu or call 281.351.3300.