Last night I was honored to received the Yuma County Teacher of the Year Award in the College Professor category. Below is the text from my two minute acceptance speech:
“So, a veteran, a high school student, an athlete, an immigrant, and a snowbird walk into a history class…no, this isn’t the first line of a joke, it’s what happens every day at Arizona Western College. Their backgrounds and life experiences couldn’t be more different, they have diverse goals and various majors, and they may be sitting in a classroom or logging into Blackboard, but they all chose to enroll in AWC and they are my students, the reason I am standing before you this evening.
I can’t begin to express how honored I was to be nominated by one of my students for the AWC Teacher of the Year. I would like to sincerely thank the Educational Foundation of Yuma County, Yuma Rotary clubs, and my colleagues at AWC for selecting me for this prestigious award. I am humbled, yet proud to represent the faculty of Arizona Western College. This award is beyond a personal achievement for me, but also represents the dedication and respect that Yumans have for education and educators.
I chose this profession out of my enthusiasm for learning about history and a desire to help others achieve their educational goals. Like many of you, that passion was ignited by my own teachers, from Kindergarten to Grad school. The greatest satisfaction I have is when a former student tells me they have passed their citizenship exam, requests a letter of recommendation for grad school, or tells me that they have decided to become a history teacher. YES! We can make a difference, one student at a time.
As mentioned earlier, the AWC Teacher of the Year Award includes what I believe to be the greatest reward: the opportunity to award a Presidential Scholarship (free tuition at AWC for one year) to a student of my choice. My scholarship recipient, Ernesto Duarte, was unable to attend this evening, but I’m certain that he will be sitting among you in the future because his goal is to become a high school history teacher. Thank you, the K-12 teachers of Yuma County, for growing future Matadors so that we, at AWC can return the favor and develop the next generation of educators!
Finally, to my family, Joe Cardenas, my students, and my colleagues at AWC, thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
The theme this year was Embrace Technology as evidenced by the photo at the top of this blog. Yuma county has a population just under a quarter of a million and, due to its location in the desert southwest and its agricultural economy, there is a high unemployment rate and, subsequently, a high rate of poverty. However, Yuma schools have embraced innovation and technology, from K-12 and into college. In K-12 schools, grants have allowed schools to purchase Chromebooks for students so that they can use e-textbooks and other resources. As they transition to college, students from Yuma schools are comfortable using technology, but they may not have access to computing devices at home once they lose the Chromebook, iPad, or other netbook supplied by their high schools. Although I am not advocating free devices for all community college students, programs that allow students to rent devices by semester might help to improve access so that as an institution we can embrace technology and support student learning at the same time.