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Arizona Western College names 2020 Teachers of the Year

Full-time and associate faculty members to be recognized at annual celebration

Yuma, AZ (March 11, 2020) – Arizona Western College’s 2020 Teacher of the Year honorees are full-time faculty member Dr. Matthew Smith, Professor of Biology, and associate faculty member Rudy Ortiz, Professor of Early Childhood Education.

Of the 37 qualified nominations that were made by students and staff, the winners were selected for this prestigious honor by the Center for Instructional Excellence based on exemplary performance in the classroom; being accepted and respected by their colleagues and administrators; being innovative, creative and enthusiastic; being involved in professional enrichment; demonstrating outstanding contributions and/or leadership in their workplace and beyond; and exhibiting a willingness to share their expertise with others.

Smith and Ortiz will be recognized for their work at AWC, in the community, and their dedication to their students’ education at the 33rd Annual Teacher of the Year banquet at the Yuma Civic Center on Tuesday, April 21.

Through a partnership with the AWC Foundation, this year’s awardees were given the Frances Morris Endowed Faculty Achievement Award and the Shadle-Edgecombe Endowed Faculty Achievement Award to honor their hard work. These awards are in addition to a tuition waiver for three credits at Northern Arizona University-Yuma for academic year 2020-2021, an opportunity to travel to a professional conference of their choice, and a special parking spot on campus. Additionally, Smith will also have the responsibility of selecting a student who is a high school senior or a student already attending AWC for the Teacher of the Year Presidential Scholarship.

Excerpt from Dr. Matthew Smith’s Teaching Philosophy Statement:
“As a child, I watched Mr. Rogers on PBS, and as a professor, I have tried to emulate many of his beliefs and actions with my adult students. He has numerous quotes with which I agree and attempt to display in my interactions with the students. Mr. Rogers - "I don't think anyone can grow unless he's loved exactly as he is now, appreciated for what he is rather than what he will be." I regularly remind students that they are amazing for what they are doing: going to school, working, raising a family. I tell them they are exceptional right now, for who they are. Mr. Rogers - "The world needs a sense of worth, and it will achieve it only by its people feeling that they are worthwhile." I remind students that it is not only what they will become that makes it all worthwhile, but it is also equally important that they realize they are worth something right now: as spouses, parents, their parent's child, as a friend.”

Excerpt from Rudy Ortiz’s Teaching Philosophy Statement:
“I personally support AWC’s mission by executing my philosophy of teaching. My philosophy at its core starts with - students learn best in an atmosphere that fosters self-esteem and confidence. I firmly believe that as an early childhood professor, my role is to support my students to be well-rounded human beings, to be successful in education, career, and life. For many of my students, they are first-generation college students. They are still figuring out how to take full advantage of our system and community. I support them by connecting class content to personal stories. I share mistakes I’ve made, and lessons learned. This supports my ability to create meaningful relationships that provide trust and that inspires. It provides the “ganas” (the will) our students need to build the skills or community connections needed to be successful in college and in their career.”

Joann Chang
Center for Instructional Excellence Director/Professor of Biology
Arizona Western College
(928) 344-7665

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