My Professional Development is Important to Me. What About You?


Maybe I should take a Photoshop class.

I’m a busy person. We’re all busy, but being the Faculty Director of the Center for Teaching, Learning & Engagement has really challenged my perception of what is really busy. But no matter how busy I am, one thing is always constant; I always have time for professional development. I’ve participated in pretty much everything Maricopa has offered us. MIL – Done. MET – Done. MSI – Done. Sabbatical – Done. Learning Grant – Done. Multiple times. Summer Projects – Done. Diversity Infusion Program – Done. What ever dollar amount district makes available for us to travel – I spend every dollar. Every year.


Learning is my passion, as I demonstrated in my Ignite GCC talk last semester. It’s just something I can’t turn off. I want to learn new things. Every day! So I always have time for professional development. Which is why I’m so surprised that the CTLE doesn’t attract bigger crowds. Isn’t everyone like me? Doesn’t everyone live for professional development? Unfortunately, no. Faculty are busy. They’re either doing their own thing or just can’t find the time. This is unfortunate indeed because we are awesome if I have to say so myself. :)


The CTLE team works hard each week to combat this lack of interest in “our” professional development. We offer rewards for blogging, and then debate about the healthiness of these rewards. We throw big events like Ignite GCC and GCC’s Rockin’ New Year! We offer all the latest trends in education as workshops, and to combat the ever present comment, “I can’t make that time,” we offer the “Have it Your Way” form where faculty and staff can choose their professional development AND when it is offered. Just for you.


So this might sound like I’m about to complain, but I’m not. Yes, I would love to see every single person on this campus come through the CTLE for professional development (actually that would be quite overwhelming), but the reality of this is, that’s not going to happen, no matter what we do to get them here. And I’m okay with that because the people who do come, and who do participate and engage with us, are the most awesome people I’ve ever worked with. They make it all worthwhile knowing that we were able to help fuel their own passion for learning. So I hope you all keep coming.


Flipping the Classroom, One Video at a Time

The “flipped classroom” is all the buzz lately. I really like the idea of it, and I have tried to get students to prepare ahead of time so we can do interactive activities during class. In addition to this, I assign projects that require students to apply the knowledge from their study.

Last summer, my ACE students were struggling with an activity and asked for more time in class to do the project. I obliged, with an agreement that they would have to watch the lectures outside of class. I spent the better of two afternoons recording the lectures using Screencast-O-Matic and Power Point slides. They were not perfect, but they worked, and the extra in class time to help students apply the material was awesome!

Last week, as we were working on an in-class activity about the atmosphere, one of my students remarked, “I wonder what it would be like to be a storm chaser!” Many others responded, and a great discussion ensued (I love when that happens!). I do know a storm chaser, in fact, she is a former student – and I even have had her come as a guest speaker before. So I contacted her, but unfortunately, she is now working a “real” job, and cannot get away during my class time. The next best thing is to make a video of her presentation.

…Here I go, trying out something I’ve never done before. Oh, wait, isn’t that professional development?

This time, instead of talking over Power Point slides, I thought it would be more engaging if my speaker could do her talking in front of a green screen and then display her photographs or video behind her. Lucky for me, the CTLE can help with that. I met today with Cheryl Colan to learn more about how it’s done, just to see if it is a doable project. We had so much fun! I even made a video of myself with instructions for my speaker about what she should prepare when we are ready to film. It took about an hour to film and publish the very short video. I even put one of my own storm pictures behind me. Here I am, finishing up the recording (Cheryl suggested I put this picture in my post):


The CTLE has a recording room, complete with green screen, computer loaded with the right software, camera and microphone, special lights, and even a teleprompter. Cheryl also told me that when you reserve the recording room, you are also reserving her services – that way she is available to help you through the process.

I definitely learned something new today! I know this video will probably be the only project of this kind for this semester, but little by little, I might just end up with a collection of them.


Lo Hice

Professional development is probably one of my favorite parts of my job.  I thrive on changes and possibilities, and professional development keeps life from getting too still  or predictable.

I tend to think of professional development as conferences and research and breakout sessions, but I think any time we push ourselves, either professionally or personally, we stand to develop as humans.

Wednesday night I found myself at GCC’s first bilingual open mic poetry reading. I organized it as part of my job as directing the creative writing program here at the college, so it made sense that I was there.  We were going to have two hosts and some featured guests who would read poetry in both Spanish and English after the open mic portion of the evening.  My job was to be there, represent GCC, encourage community and student members who wanted to read, and make sure nothing went wrong with technology. I had been planning an event like this for a year — not that it took that long to plan, but that I had the idea that long ago, and it just took a while to produce.  Since GCC is a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI), and many of our  students and community members are Spanish speakers, why not celebrate writing and creativity by offering an evening for expression in both languages?

What I didn’t expect was the following: The host who organized the entire evening, beginning to end, couldn’t come at the last minute due to a family emergency. The host who was to actually serve as the emcee got stuck in Phoenix rush hour traffic and was half an hour late. That meant that I had to get the evening started. I had to speak Spanish into a microphone and have it broadcast before fluent Spanish speakers. Certainly my Spanish is conversational, but speaking in front of a group of people in English is hard enough, even as a teacher (because it’s not my classroom, my students, a zone I am familiar in). Doing so in a different language was scary enough to make me break into a real sweat.

I don’t know how I did.  It was nobody’s job to provide me with feedback, and in the moment I was too panicked to notice anything besides my own panic.  Eventually, the real host appeared and took over. He was charming, funny, and completely fluent in both languages.  The evening went on and my magnified moment of mass uncertainty drifted away.

What I do know is that Wednesday night professional development happened.  To me. I stretched my comfort zone more than a hair. Whether I did well or not seems almost moot.  What matters at this point is that we had the event, it was well attended and fun, and I did what I had to do to facilitate it.  In the meantime, my entire self, like the Grinch’s heart at the end of the book, grew a few sizes that day. I did it.  Lo hice.


Find Your Passion

The above image shows the results from last week’s poll and has nothing to do with the content of this week’s blog.

Week 3 Blog – Find Your Passion

I have a problem with following directions. I am always looking for the road less traveled. Our theme this week is about professional development, and I want to get to the heart of the matter, but with a twist.

Let’s face it, we don’t love our jobs every day. We tell our students to find a career they are passionate about so that they will “love” their jobs. Well, we all know that is an unrealistic expectation.

In order to have ultimate job satisfaction, you have to be passionate about SOMETHING. You have to make time for the things that you love. If you are an artist, you should be drawing, painting or designing. But you don’t have to do it at work. You do have to make sure you take the time to do it at some point in the day!

Take a look around at your work colleagues. You can see who is bringing passion to work. It’s like the good life is flowing over into their otherwise ho-hum life.

Take me, for example. Louise likes her job, she has a passion for health and fitness and loves teaching. Her job can be overwhelming and repetitive at times. Her true passion is swimming. When she swims, she is able to be creative and excited about her job, constantly coming up with something new and fun to keep it from feeling overwhelming and repetitive.

When Louise does not take the time to swim, she is grumpy and overwhelmed. Her professional development is directly affected by whether or not she gets to swim (her true passion). There are other obvious health-related benefits from swimming that get her blood flowing and her brain working, but jogging on the treadmill does not have the same effect, because she is terrible at running (not her true passion).

So what does this have to do with professional development, you ask? Everything. The point of professional development is to get better at what you do, to stay current in your field of study, and to network with others on the same career path. You can’t do any of that without passion. Let your passion for your “thing” overflow into your work life and you will find that your professional development will take care of itself. You will find yourself seeking opportunities that you would have otherwise missed.

Here is your call to action for the week: “What are you passionate about and are you spending enough time doing what you love?”

p.s. My “actual” professional development consists of an annual conference with the American College of Sports Medicine, nutrition seminars, various  MCCCD FPG workshops, and my favorite: CTLE offerings throughout the year. I have immense appreciation for the work of the GCC CTLE crew of Meghan, Alisa, Mark and Cheryl. They are oozing with talent and I love to learn from them.  ls


Professional Development: What have you learned lately?

One of my best sources for professional development is peeking over the shoulders of my colleagues.  No, I’m not a stalker.  Specifically, I

  1. Sub for absent colleagues. I can really see how their courses connect with mine.  For example, today I was with a RDG091 class.  I can see what I should be doing in RDG081 to prep my students as well as see how their work leads up to CRE101.  I can also see different ways of delivering the content, whether it be in class or through Canvas.
  2. Tutor in the Writing Center. I am able to experience a wide range of writing expectations across our campus, and I always get good ideas about assignments and rubrics used by my colleagues.  I also stay in practice with having to explain things in a new and different way.
  3. Review online courses using the Gold Standards. Some of my best “ah-has” have come when I look at the modules or feedback strategies or resources contained in my colleagues’ awesome courses.  What good ideas we have here!  It really stretches me when I go outside of reading or education to see the way others view the world of Canvas.

I get so many good ideas every week that I’ve had to create Google docs and Google mail labels to capture everything.

My greatest personal growth lesson recently has been to implement just one or two things at a time.  Once I’m comfortable, I go to my files and find something else to add.


Student Success and Financial Aid – Week #2

Count yourself lucky if you didn’t have to rely on Federal Financial Aid for your college education.  At GCC, approximately 60% of our students must battle this maze every year.  In my time as the Vice President of Student Affairs, I have heard many stories from students, learned to understand the secret language of federal financial aid, and offer suggestions on ways to improve our service to students.  For example, take the U.S. born student whose parents were undocumented immigrants from Mexico.  When our student was 13, the parents were deported back to Mexico, leaving our student to fend for himself. Fortunately, he had an older sister who could help but nothing can replace the care and guidance of parents.  I learned there is help for exactly this situation, it’s called a Dependency Override, and while complicated, it allowed the student access to federal financial aid.

Every semester, a process called Enrollment Cancellation begins 35 days before the start of the semester.  This is a District-wide process that drops students from their classes for non-payment.  It has a complicated long story, but suffice it to say, there is a lot of angst surrounding this process.

Last summer, GCC was preparing to drop approximately 7000 students for non-payment.  Luckily, we were able to push robocalls to these students, encouraging them to sign up for a payment plan.  We also learned that approximately 3500 students had a federal financial aid application on file but had not completed the steps for awarding.  We saw this as a call to action, an opportunity to reach out to these students and to try to push them through the maze of financial aid.  We coined the phrase “Financial Aid Friday” and on a hot Friday in July, we were able to reach over 300 students.  GCC gained a lot of attention from District Office that day and a representative was sent over to witness and participate in our big event.  As a result of our focus on student success and financial aid, the messaging that students received was streamlined and made easier to understand.

So, what has GCC done now that we understand the impact of the federal financial process on our students and their success?  We have streamlined the GCC Financial Aid department and have hired four part-time staff to focus solely and completely on getting students through the maze we call federal financial aid. We are also planning additional Financial Aid Fridays throughout the summer.  The biggest take away for me has been in seeing the positive impact of one-on-one attention to our students.  It is time consuming and costly but ultimately, worth the price if we can help one more student through the maze.


En el medio de la tormenta

Llevo ya casi un mes preparando para el festival de la celebración del año nuevo chino en GCC.  Creo que a esto le llaman estar en el ojo de la tormenta, en el cual todo se acumula y te ves inundada de tanto trabajo que te quedas inerte.  Creo que algo así me ha pasado hoy.  Estuve congelada por casi media hora y no pude moverme de mi sitio, pensar o escribir.  Tomó el timbrazo de una llamada equivocada para que pudiera reaccionar y volver al ritmo del trabajo.  Entre tanto trabajo y tensión, me pregunto si no sería mejor quedarme dormida durante mis vacaciones y no salir a ninguna parte.  Hubiese sido interesante quedarme en frente de mi computadora y mirar las telenovelas coreanas que tanto me gustan y no solamente por el idioma, sino por los actores que lloran lágrimas que parecen riachuelos cuando sufren.  Estos coreanos si sienten esa pasión que se llama sufrimiento a causa del amor.  Ah! Lo mío es puro sufrimiento dentro de esta tormenta que se llama trabajo.


Helping Those in Need

I read with hilarity that our fearless 6×6 leader had to cut a workout short, at Orange Theory, of all places, in order to salvage Ben & Jerry’s ice cream from a melt down in her car of disastrous proportions.

I am devoting this post to help someone in need. So if this resonates with you, consider this a gift!

Fortunatley for me, I am lactose intolerant and I generally give up sweets for Lent anyway.  So, I am donating my ice cream prize from last week to anyone who is daring enough to share a time lapse video of themselves completing a 20-minute workout!

I am also taking a poll to see if our dedicated Write 6x6ers would prefer a whole-food snack as their award for completing their weekly challenge.  The results of this poll will be shared next week! Please choose your poison and submit!

People will generally eat what is put in front of them and a sweet reward is always welcome! But if you are trying to make a positive change in your eating habits, my guess is that you will appreciate having a reward that contributes to your health!

I was going to file this blog in the never-to-be-published archives, but have been egged on by our fearless moderator, as it seems that she might be up for the time-lapse video challenge. Who knew?

In the spirit of Valentine’s day, take care of your heart with healthy eating and exercise so you have the energy and strength to send your love to the world.




My New Degree In Biology

I started out in college majoring in Biology.  It wasn’t until I was finishing my Associate’s degree that I gave up science.  I had just gone through a divorce and was raising two children on my own, with little to no financial assistance from the ex.  My dream of moving to California to finish a degree in Marine Biology was crushed by the reality of single parent poverty.  Looking back, I wonder if there had been someone in my life at that time to provide a little encouragement, would I have continued a degree in a different area of Biology?  Instead, I walked away completely from science, beginning new majors in History and Spanish.

Many years have passed.  In what I believe is a bit of good karma, I find myself working temporarily in the college’s Biology department where I once worked years ago as a student.  With the Department’s support, I was able to achieve something amazing this past year.  Together, we collaborated with Western New Mexico University to create a new transfer pathway for our Biotechnology students.  Starting this fall, 24 students will begin Bachelors degrees in Cell and Molecular Biology right here on our community college campus.  The degree is a highly innovative, collaborative, affordable and rigorous program that I am proud to have helped shape.  Best of all, I believe this program brings opportunity for students who might be struggling like I did all those years ago.  Having a good quality pathway on campus that is accessible and affordable will make it easier for students who need a little encouragement to follow their dreams in science.  It completes a circle for me too.  I finally did get my degree in Biology, after all.

Applications are now being accepted for 24 students to begin this fall!  For more information on the new degree in Cell and Molecular Biology, visit this link: 

Filed under: Arizona, Biology, Science Tagged: Arizona, Glendale Community College, Innovation, Science, Write 6X6


Learning to Pronounce ‘Siobhan’: Success Is All in the Context

In order to gain energy and inspiration to write this blog, I sat down with the second half of my pint of delicious Ben & Jerry’s Mint Chocolate Cookie ice cream that I earned last week.  And while it inspired my taste buds, little else happened until I thought long and hard about what made this week successful. At first, it wasn’t obvious.

I have to agree with Beth Eyres on this one.  Week 4 has been tough. Papers are coming due and need attention.  I have had an ear infection all week, and although it arrived without pain, I feel like I’ve been living in a cross between a cave and a wind tunnel that comes with live amplifier feedback directly plugged into my brain.

On top of that, my son has had the flu–a pretty bad case of it.  One day he slept for 20 of 24 hours. He can’t get the flu shot because it’s made in egg shells, which causes a strong allergic reaction in him. I get the flu shot in case he comes down with it.  I didn’t expect to get the ear infection instead.  Happily, today he’s pretty normal again.

At any rate, knowing that by the week’s end I’d have a blog to write, I have been going about my week trying to think of a student success story, or any success story, to share.  But my success has simply been making it through this week.  My success has been that on the Friday in the fourth week of classes, I was to teach 48 students, and 44 made it to classes between two different sections.  I think that’s a pretty good turn out given the types of viruses and bacteria that are clearly running rampant.  My success was also that a (small) handful of students appeared unexpectedly at the GCC Reads meeting that I facilitated this afternoon. Last week, only two people appeared, and only one said that she’d be able to come back. I fully expected to walk into an empty room today. Instead, I was met by four faces, three of which were smiling and excited to discuss the love of reading, pets, and autism. (And the fourth person wasn’t sure why he was there, but that was okay, too.)  Together, as a group, we learned how to pronounce the Irish woman’s name, Siobhan, who is one of the characters in the book.  A student was that interested to ask how to say it, and I was grateful to him for making me look it up on the spot. I quickly learned that I had already read the entire novel once mispronouncing the name in my head.  Apparently, it is said, “Sha-vonne” with an Irish accent, to wit:

My final success of today was that I filed a group travel form for the MEChA nationals conference next month *using the new system* and it worked!

Today’s realization: successes are small and contextual. What makes me feel successful today may not be nearly as thrilling in a different week.  But this week?  Cursed week four?  Well, I’ll take it!