CCV proudly recognizes members of its outstanding faculty with the annual Teaching Excellence Awards. Faculty are nominated by students, staff, and faculty colleagues, and this year more than 100 instructors received nominations. Recipients are selected by Academic Council, which includes faculty, staff, and student representatives. This year, CCV is pleased to honor Mary Ann Boyd, Louis (Lou) Colasanti, and Stephanie Bush.
Mary Ann Boyd’s CCV experience started when she was on the other side of the classroom as a nontraditional student at the CCV-Middlebury center. She took advantage of the classes CCV had to offer, and after two years at the College she transferred to Castleton University to earn a bachelor’s degree in social work. After earning her master’s degree in social work and working in the field for years, including opening her own private practice, she started teaching at CCV in 2014. In the years since, she has taught Interpersonal Communication, Workplace Communication, Conflict Resolution, and Death and Dying.
When the opportunity arose, the choice to teach at CCV was an easy one for Mary Ann. “CCV gave me my first chance…I feel very loyal to them, they’re near to my heart,” she said. “I like the population of community college students. Often they are trying to jump back into the education world…and it just feels very satisfying to me and it’s the population that I choose to teach. CCV really matters to me…they believed in me.”
The switch to teaching from a clinical setting was also easy because of her passion for sharing her knowledge with her students. “I love passing on what I’ve worked hard to learn, to see the next generation and pass the torch. I’ve worked hard, I’ve studied hard, I’ve gained experience and I don’t want it to just slip away…I’ve always liked teaching.” She added: “I love watching people grow…just seeing them develop as learners.”
This passion for helping students develop shines through in her teaching style in the classroom. “Empowering and supportive would be my teaching style,” she said. “It’s my job to help them build the desire to learn and the confidence that they can learn.” For Mary Ann, her background as a social worker has impacted this style because it’s in her training to be curious and listen. “I’ve worked with some of the most challenged populations and I’ve always had to meet them where they were, and support them where they were.”
Through the nominations she received for the Teaching Excellence Award, It is apparent that Mary Ann has been successful in helping her students grow. One student said that her class “completely changed my views of the world we all live in and how I choose to live my life now. This person changed my life for the better.” Another stated that Mary Ann “is a true rockstar… I am eternally grateful that Mary Ann Boyd came into my life; words cannot express how much she has helped me recognize the beauty of life, my self-worth, and the countless possibilities the future holds.”
For the faculty member who works hard to empower her students, the Teaching Excellence Award was able to do the same for her. “I felt kind of empowered, that ‘wow, I’m giving them exactly what they want me to give them,’” said Mary Ann. “I would say it’s one of the greatest achievements of my professional life.”
“Once upon a time when I was thinking about college myself, I had med school in my sights,” Lou Colasanti said. Colasanti joined the service in the 1960s, serving in both the Navy and Marine Corps and worked in a military hospital. But his work in the medical field helped him realize that it wasn’t what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. “So, I went back to school as a first-generation college student.”
Lou continued to college and collected multiple majors along the way, graduating with bachelor’s degrees in social work, psychology, English, and interdisciplinary studies and a master’s degree in a literature and writing in the schools. Using the knowledge he had collected, Lou worked in a variety of jobs and industries including the Addison County Community Action Group, running a community education project and faculty seminar sessions, and working for the Vermont judiciary’s IT department. In 2006 he started teaching courses at CCV.
At CCV Lou began teaching the general education courses of Computer Applications, Dimensions of Self & Society, and Seminar in Educational Inquiry. “Usually, they’re courses that students don’t want to take, they have to take them…that’s where I wanted to be,” he said. “I intentionally position myself in the courses nobody wants to take and see if we can’t change a little bit of perspective on what it means to take a required course.” In these courses, Lou takes an interdisciplinary approach to the content he teaches, drawing from his personal experiences. “Having been [a] first generation [student], being a vet[eran], having worked in social services, that’s helped me to be able to connect with a variety of students because of where they’ve come from or where their interests lie,” he said. “In order to teach, you must first understand what the students understands, in the way that the student understands it.”
Over the past 16 years at CCV, and 45 years teaching at the post-secondary level, Lou has had the opportunity to perfect his teaching style. “Even though the temptation is to say I’ve changed over the years as I’ve learned some things…I think the style is still fundamentally the same and goes back to the idea that for me, things are student centered,” he said. ‘I’ve learned new little tricks along the way…the style is who’s sitting in my classroom, who I’m actually talking to, not as a group, but as individuals.”
Students have noticed, and appreciated, Lou’s style in the classroom saying, “he made class fun and interactive, and made every student feel empowered. To put it quite simply, he made me a better student and a better person.” CCV staff have also taken notice and recognized the impact Lou has had on the CCV student experience: “This instructor models student-centeredness. He is instrumental in supporting students as they complete their CCV degrees, and as they work to transition to what comes next for them after CCV.”
Fulfilling a Passion
For Stephanie Bush, art is simply “a passion that you can’t really see yourself being fulfilled without.” That’s why she started teaching: “I want to try and share that passion I have.”
Stephanie grew up in Quebec, Canada and was “always into making art from a very young age.” When she went to college, she chose to pursue an education in visual arts and art history, earning a bachelor’s and later a master’s degree, which is when she moved to the United States. Upon earning a degree in the arts, Stephanie didn’t automatically become a thriving artist, which is something she tries to drive home to her students. “I think there’s the myth a lot of students have that they’re going to be discovered… and that is a complete myth. All of the most successful artists I’ve met…they’re all workaholics,” she said.
She traveled, worked as a waitress, and worked commissions between her studies. After staying home to raise her son while he was young, she had the opportunity to teach Studio Art at CCV. Now, 12 years later, Stephanie teaches two to three courses per semester, including Studio Art, Drawing, and Painting. “I’m hodge podge…I love it,” she said. “Each one’s different and I really enjoy getting to introduce all of these different things [to students].” In addition to teaching each medium, Stephanie says she tries to incorporate art history intoher classes. “It’s important to contextualize your work and not reinvent the wheel. Over hundreds and hundreds of years so much art media and subject matter has been explored. You don’t want to repeat that and regurgitate that; you want to personalize it in a way that’s relevant.”
Along with working as an instructor at CCV, Stephanie has built up her body of work throughout the years and is an active artist. With her primary medium as oil paintings, she displays her pieces in installations throughout the community. “Being a successful artist is a lot of leg work and a lot of being a smart business person,” Stephanie said, knowledge that she tries to impart on her students while still saying “I’m always learning.” Some of this learning has come from her time at CCV. “My own work has greatly improved, I really enjoy the interactions with the students and the community,” she said.
While she admits that her classes are challenging, she tells her students “I’m just trying to arm your toolbox.” She does so through a rigorous curriculum coupled with encouragement and feedback. “The only way to learn how to make art is to make it, to just repeat, try and fail. I always reward failure if you’ve tried.”