TAMIU faculty members receive OTotY, DTotY awards
By David Gomez Jr.
Published Monday, Jan. 25, 2021
Two TAMIU faculty members in the College of Arts and Sciences received honors based on their teaching strengths.
In late 2020, the Outstanding Teacher of the Year award went to Assistant Professional Charlene K. Summers and the Distinguished Teacher of the Year award went to Associate Professor Aaron Olivas, both in the Department of Humanities at Texas A&M International University.
“I felt an incredible boost of morale when I received the news,” Olivas emailed The Bridge. “[Fall 2020] has been a very traumatic semester, in and out of the classroom [and] that goes for my own personal life as well as the personal lives of my students. The burden has been two-fold.”
This past semester was quite different as everyone adapted to what people frequently referred to as “the new normal.” This included a flexible scheduling of classes that would allow the choice of either on-campus or online learning, through the introduction of new TAMIUFlex courses, which presented challenges for some students. Teaching adaptations became necessary as well.
“Also, receiving teaching and mentoring awards is always tremendously rewarding. It gives you a sense that you are doing something right, you know,” Olivas emailed.
The Outstanding Teacher of the Year, who also serves as the interim director of the First-Year Writing Program, had a few words of her own upon receiving the news.
“I was incredibly humbled. I mean, of course I was excited, but overall, I was very surprised by the news,” Summers emailed. “TAMIU has so many amazing faculty members that I could not believe that I was selected among them for such a prestigious award.”
Of course, this honor isn’t just given at random by drawing names from a hat by a respectful colleague; the applicants must submit documentation of their experience and accomplishments to be considered.
“Faculty are told in advance if they are in the running,” Olivas emailed. “Candidates are also required to submit materials related to teaching excellence (syllabi, course evaluations, teaching philosophies, etc.”
Both faculty members expressed their gratitude.
“I want to say ‘thank you’ to my wonderful students. They are the reason that I was awarded this honor. They are the reason I love my job, and they are the reason I work as I do. I am only a good teacher because I have amazing students,” Summers emailed.
Olivas, on the other hand, would not stop teaching while expressing his appreciation.
“My grandparents Ramón and Juanita Olivas grew up in South Texas, [in Crystal City and Eagle Pass,] between the 1920s to 1940s,” Olivas emailed. “Universities like TAMIU weren’t even created until the 1970s. That said, I place tremendous value in being able to contribute to educating South Texans. It’s important to me that they receive opportunities that my family down here never had before. This award feels vindicating in that respect. I’m glad others feel like I’m doing a good job down here as well.”