“The other day I got an email from Fred,” a CCV student wrote recently of one of their instructors. “We don’t have class together this semester for the first time in two years. He said he just missed our time together and asked what books I had been reading—that’s Fred in a nutshell. He cares about his students. He believes in them. He is interested in their lives and their educational journey.”
Fred Bennett, Upper Valley
“One of the things that I think we do well is not only fill [students] with the content of the course, but how to think. That’s what you guys do well, and what really matters.”
Jay Riggen, Winooski and Morrisville
“When we meet students where they are, and challenge them still, that’s where empowerment lives. And to see the empowerment in the individual is what brings us back year after year.”
For more than a decade, CCV has recognized outstanding faculty with its annual Teaching Excellence Award. This year, three faculty members were honored with the award during fall semester kick-off events at the Winooski and Upper Valley academic centers.
Academic Dean Deborah Stewart introduced awardees, sharing that faculty are selected based on “their ability to engage students where they are and challenge them to grow as learners and leaders; their ability to transform the content of their classes in ways that are fresh and relevant; and the ways that the faculty makes a difference in the lives of their students.” Following a nomination process, final selections for the award are made by Academic Council, which includes faculty, staff, and a student representative. This year’s recipients are Fred Bennett, Katie Bucci, and Jay Riggen.
Since 2006, Fred Bennett has taught a wide variety of classes at CCV, from Comedy & Humor to Statistics, in classrooms in the Upper Valley, Springfield, and Rutland. Katie Bucci has been teaching Anatomy & Physiology and Human Biology at the Upper Valley center since 2015. Jay Riggen teaches communication classes in Morrisville and Winooski. He serves in law enforcement, and launched his career at CCV in 2016.
Award recipients are nominated by students, staff, and fellow faculty. In 2019, more than 200 nominations were received—96% of which came from students. Academic Dean Stewart shared excerpts from these nominations in her introductions of this year’s awardees, including the note about Fred Bennett at the beginning of this story.
For one student, Bucci’s teaching transformed her experience as a learner. “For the longest time, I thought I was just ‘another girl who was bad at math and science’ and academically could only succeed in the humanities,” wrote the student. “I now realize that was because I never had science teachers like Katie…[She] truly cares about us learning and understanding the material. Because of [Katie’s] class, I am excited to pursue nursing, something I never thought I would be smart enough to do.”
Six different students nominated Riggen for the award. One student wrote that Riggen “has definitely made a difference in my life. He lights up the room and helps everyone feel comfortable. He has made our class feel more open to talk in front of groups and small crowds. He always says ‘we are a team’ and I feel like that’s really important…We all have a mutual level of respect.”
CCV President Joyce Judy spoke at each of the events, congratulating award recipients and welcoming all faculty to the new semester. At the Upper Valley center last Friday, she thanked faculty for their dedication to students. “If we weren’t here, if you weren’t here, so many students wouldn’t have the option of continuing their education. I’m grateful to all of you and to the work you do throughout the College.”