Salt Lake Community College this year honored Celestina Punzalan, Kati Lewis and Walter Cunningham with Teaching Excellence awards in conjunction with its 2015 Commencement events.
Punzalan has taught at Salt Lake Community College more than 20 years, having co-written several books, including one about fractions that is still revered and used by fellow faculty. Math instructor Rosemary Jamieson wrote about using one of the books Punzalan helped author, “I have taught elementary algebra many, many times in my career and used a variety of textbooks over 40 years. This particular one is by far the best because of its simple presentation and straightforward approach.” Punzalan says she teaches her classes with enthusiasm, love, and patience, promoting a classroom atmosphere conducive to learning through fairness, understanding of students’ individual differences, and development of mutual respect. She injects humor into the lectures and class discussions to allay the students’ usual fear of math. She gives students her home phone number so they can call her with questions on weekends. She makes herself available to students who struggle several times during the day outside of normal office hours.
Lewis has been called gifted, caring, creative, inspiring, wise and “theologically adept, but getting more out of her students is something that truly defines who she is as an English and history instructor at Salt Lake Community College. As Lewis puts it, “I believe in high expectations for students, and I want them to hold me to the same expectations. I also hold the same standards for myself in my interactions and collaborations with colleagues.” Her students are grateful for the expectations Lewis puts on them and the extra help she gives to live up to those demands. “Kati offered to meet with me on a Saturday morning in the library at the college. She sat with me for over two hours and went through every question on the midterm, one by one, in order to help me gain understanding,” said former student Elizabeth Henline. Other students have praised Lewis for seeing things with a “fresh eye” and figuring out different ways to engage students.
Known as an innovator and leader in his field of study, Cunningham began surveying land in Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula in 1966 when he was only 13. He saved money for college by working on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in mapping from BYU in 1988. As an instructor he tried out “flipped” classrooms – whereby students learn content at home and use class time for homework with the help of the instructor and students – before it was popular. His role at Salt Lake Community College began in 1994 as an adjunct instructor, and in 2004 he accepted a full-time position at SLCC, eventually taking on the role of coordinator over the institution’s Surveying and Geomatics program. Cunningham’s colleagues are struck by the enthusiasm he has about education and for his students and the love, fire, and passion he has for his program and his students. School of Science, Mathematics and Engineering Interim Dean Craig Caldwell said, “It is clear that Walter brings a passion for his field to his work. He cares deeply about the history, practice, applications, and on-going need for professionals to work in surveying. This shows clearly in how he articulates the needs for both students and employers who work in this field.”