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TCC announces annual award winners

Tidewater Community College recognized four faculty and staff members from across the college with annual special awards on Aug. 20.

Selected by their peers, the honorees received their awards at TCC’s 2020 Fall Convocation, which was held virtually this year due to COVID-19.

Professor of the Year

Professor David Wright

David Wright, 69, is the Professor of the Year as chosen by the Faculty Senate. That honor is the icing on what is, no doubt, the most storied year of his 47 years at the college. He became TCC’s first viral professor thanks to a Twitter post from one of his students last December. Wright’s innovative, hands-on teaching style to make science fun and relatable includes experiments that range from walking on a bed of nails to jumping up and down on a pogo stick to using a slingshot. He appeared on “The Kelly Clarkson Show” in January and participated in interviews with NBC News, the BBC, People Magazine and NPR Education.

Wright, who started at the Virginia Beach Campus the same year it opened, 1973, and retired in 2020 as physics chair, was named Professor Emeritus in May. He was also TCC’s Professor of the Year in 2017. Wright completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Brigham Young University and his doctorate at Virginia Tech.

“I really love teaching physics and astronomy,” he said. “My goal has always been to get students excited about science. A long time ago, I decided that if I was not having any fun teaching my classes, my students would not have any fun being there. I have really been blessed to be here at TCC.  We have a lot of great instructors, a very supportive administration and awesome students.”

Faculty Special Achievement

Professor Sean LaCroix

Sean LaCroix, assistant professor of economics, was honored by the Faculty Senate with the Faculty Special Achievement award for his innovative teaching and dedication to student development.

LaCroix, 51, developed an innovative YouTube video series, “Central Point,” that covers key topics in both micro and macroeconomics. The series includes more than 30 short videos that have been incorporated in all of his classes.

“I’m humbled and honored by this award because I’m surrounded by very competent, high-quality faculty who are involved and work hard to serve our students,” LaCroix said.

“It’s about to be our time again,” he added. “Community colleges are really important when the economy struggles, and I’m happy to be in a place that’s part of the solution.”

The Virginia Beach resident co-wrote (along with Paul English) “Student and Faculty Perceptions of Effective Teaching,” which was published in the Community College Enterprise. The 15-page article, which took more than a year to write, focuses on key areas of learning for students.

LaCroix brings real-world subjects front and center in his classes. “Last semester we discussed everything from raising the minimum wage to passing on the national debt to our children,” he said. “Connecting course concepts with the headlines and news trends helps illustrate what might otherwise be boring academic concepts.”

LaCroix holds a bachelor’s in business management from North Carolina State University and a master’s in economics from UNC Charlotte.

Support Staff Employee of the Year

Stephen Cartwright

Stephen Cartwright was recognized by the college’s Classified Association for his solutions-based approach that grows the college’s vision in multiple areas.

The digital solutions manager is the architect and chief expert in TCC’s Salesforce CRM system, which allows the college to dynamically communicate with prospective students at various stages of their academic journey. His colleagues regard him as detail-oriented, approachable and nimble enough to handle last-minute requests without sacrificing quality.

“I’ve always enjoyed problem-solving, and I love bringing that energy to my role at TCC,” he said. “It helps to be surrounded by such a dedicated team.”

The Norfolk native and Old Dominion University graduate, who joined TCC in 2014, was instrumental in the redesign of the college website. He has since grown his skill set to launch various initiatives and continues to find ways to innovate and improve existing processes. Cartwright, 31, is working toward becoming a Salesforce Certified Developer.

Wage Employee of the Year

Landes Canady-Remson

TCC alumna Landes Canady-Remson, the administrative assistant in the Norfolk Campus advising office, is the Wage Employee of the Year. Canady-Remson, 33, had two unsuccessful attempts at college before coming to TCC. 

“TCC gave me a second chance, so I see my job as my chance to pay it forward,” she said. “I owe so much to the professors and staff who invested in me.” 

Canady-Remson is the first face students see when entering the advising suite.

“Landes’ passion for TCC and its mission burns bright,” said Meredith Pollard, lead counselor on Norfolk Campus. “She welcomes students and provides critical information and guidance.”

The Newport News resident earned her Associate of Science in Social Sciences with a 3.8 GPA. She is at work on her bachelor’s in human services at Old Dominion.

Canady-Remson said, “When I see someone upset and going through it, that’s when the job is most rewarding. It’s my honor to step in and help provide solutions.”

TCC’s professors who achieved emeritus status put students first

Four professors at Tidewater Community College recently achieved emeritus distinction thanks to their contributions to academia and student success.

They are Susan Dozier, professor of information technology, Al Koon, associate professor of electronic technology, Nita Wood, professor of English and now deceased, and David Wright, professor of physics and astronomy.

Al Koon

TCC alum Koon initially taught at the college as an adjunct before moving into a full-time position in 1978; he was the first instructor and initial program head for Electronics Technology. When he started, the college had nothing but borrowed electronics equipment. Koon worked tirelessly to upgrade the college’s facilities that make TCC a respected national leader in the field. He established continuing partnerships with Old Dominion University and Norfolk State University. Named TCC’s inaugural Professor of the Year in 2001, Koon leaves behind a legacy of successful graduates, including all who serve as adjunct instructors in Electronics Technology. Koon retired in 2018.

Susan Dozier

In his words: “I loved working with the students. They would stop by the office and talk. They were so optimistic about the future. You can’t help but get drawn into their optimism. After two years, it’s like they become your child. I still have students calling me. They keep you young. In total, I was at the college for 43 years. I can honestly say I enjoyed almost every day.”

Virginia Tech alumna Dozier began teaching at TCC as an adjunct instructor while raising six children. By January 2000, she began her full-time career at the college that included two decades of teaching information technology. Dozier developed and taught nearly a dozen IT courses, mentored new faculty and is co-author of various textbooks. Her multiple service projects included working in various roles at Virginia Beach high schools to further math and science education. She retired in 2019.

In her words: “My favorite part of teaching at TCC was the opportunity to meet so many students every 16 weeks. I quickly realized the blessings and enriching interactions these students provided to my life. Teaching and learning is a two-way street. I will always be thankful for the many lives that touched mine.”

Nita Wood

Named professor emerita posthumously, Wood served TCC for 20 years before her sudden death in September 2019. Known for her vibrant personality on the Portsmouth Campus, Wood enjoyed finding engaging ways to connect with students. She designed courses that integrated African American literature and took a lead role in the college’s annual literary festival. Wood was a mentor at the Writing Center, advisor to the Rotaract Club and an instructor for multiple TCC summer camps. Wood received the college’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Award in January 2020.

In the words of her friend and colleague, TCC English Professor April Campbell: “Her legacy lives on through the many people she inspired. Her charismatic teaching methods made students feel comfortable and accepted, and many students have praised her for being available and approachable.”

David Wright

Wright needs little introduction; he is TCC’s first viral professor thanks to a Twitter post from one of his students last December. Wright’s innovative, hands-on teaching style made him a student favorite. To make science fun and relatable, he performed experiments that range from walking on a bed of nails to jumping up and down on a pogo stick to using a slingshot. He started at the Virginia Beach Campus the same year it opened, 1974, and retired in 2020 as physics chair. Wright completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Brigham Young University and his doctorate at Virginia Tech. Wright was TCC’s Professor of the Year in 2017. As one colleague wrote on a recommendation letter, “If David Wright does not qualify for emeritus status with the college, then no one else could ever qualify.” He will continue teaching classes at TCC as an adjunct.

In his words: “My favorite part about teaching was the students. They were terrific. They energized me. I loved trying to get them excited about science.”

From here to Hollywood

First trip to In-N-Out Burger?


Posing with Snoop Dogg’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame?


Sitting alongside singer-songwriter Kelly Clarkson on her very own talk show?

That’s another boxed checked for Tidewater Community College students Erica Church and Kierra Brothers, who went all the way from here to Hollywood for a special appearance on “The Kelly Clarkson Show.”

“Surreal,” is how 18-year-old Church describes the two-day whirlwind she experienced in Los Angles along with her classmate Kierra Brothers and the college’s professor-gone-viral, David Wright.

Last month Church and Brothers collaborated on what was initially meant to be a fun tweet among their peers — essentially a highlight reel of the engaging way Wright connects physics concepts to his students. The Tabb High School graduate expected a few dozen likes and shares. Instead, the tweet went viral, attracting more than 27 million viewers, all bonkers about watching the longtime TCC professor lie on a bed of nails and jump up and down on a pogo stick in an attempt to make science relatable.  

Wright and the students made national headlines in Yahoo, People magazine, NPR Education and Good Morning America, to name just a few.

Then came the call from “The Kelly Clarkson Show.”

“That was so unexpected,” said Brothers, 19, a Salem High graduate.

Church, Brothers, and Wright flew to Los Angeles the week before Christmas to tape a segment on the syndicated talk show. That spot will air at 5 p.m. on Jan. 16 on Fox WVBT.

“You always think of yourself as someone watching the show,” Church said. “You never think of yourself as the one on the show.”

Church had never been aboard a plane prior to flying from Newport News to Charlotte, North Carolina, to LAX, Los Angeles. Wright and Brothers kept her calm throughout; a chauffeur from Universal Studios greeted them at the airport.

With taping scheduled for the next day, the threesome toured Hollywood, grabbed fare from trendy chain In-N-Out and headed to Hollywood Boulevard.

“We were both excited about seeing Snoop Dogg’s star,” Brothers said.

They were stuffed after a visit to the famed Southern California soul food chain, Roscoe’s House of Chicken & Waffles.

By 8:30 p.m. PT, Church and Brothers were exhausted. Not Wright.

“He went out for a doughnut!” Church said.

When their driver pulled up to Stage 4 on the Universal Studios lot the next morning, Church and Brothers said they felt as if they were in a movie. A stop in the green room for a few nibbles from a fruit and cheese tray was followed by an escort taking them to individual dressing rooms. Their names were on the door.

“They pampered us so much,” Church said.

While their clothes were being steamed, Church and Brothers had their hair and makeup done, chatted with the producers and finally got to meet Clarkson herself.

“She’s the friendliest person ever,” Church said.

“She was so sweet,” Brothers agreed.

Tune in to see exactly how the show played out. As for Brothers and Church, they’re back at TCC for spring classes to complete their certificate in Phlebotomy with plans to apply to the Digital Medical Sonography program this spring.

It’s been a memorable few weeks, said Church, whose only regret is, “We’re sad not to have Dr. Wright anymore.”

A Top 10 look at a year to remember at TCC

A new president, a professor gone viral and a celebration of generous donors and collaborative partnerships are among a year of highlights for Tidewater Community College in 2019.

Check out our TCC Top 10 list of storylines that made a mark.

10. The college’s Norfolk and Portsmouth campuses celebrated their first-generation students, faculty and administrators in events held in early November. The days were selected to coincide with the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965.

Celebrating first-generation college students.

9. Thanks to a partnership between TCC and Chesapeake Public Schools, 52 high school graduates earned career and technical training credentials during May commencement in areas that range from mechatronics to pharmacy technology to welding.

8. TCC received a fifth federal grant to help train military veterans and their spouses for careers in trucking. The grant, administered by the college’s Center for Military and Veterans Education, allows veterans to train for in-demand careers at no cost to them.

7. A partnership among TCC, Hampton Roads Transit and Norfolk Now to prepare Hampton Roads residents for careers as bus operators launched in May and graduated its inaugural class in the fall. A second cohort is under way.

The first cohort of HRT graduates

6. Mayor Rick West joined the Nov. 18 celebration for the opening of the new robotics lab on the Chesapeake Campus. The lab contains six state-of-the-art Fuji Automatic Numerical Control robots and training stations.

5. TCC will continue to grow in the next decade thanks to several generous donors. The TCC Perry Center for Visual & Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management received a major gift from philanthropist Jim Hixon. A $500,000 grant from TowneBank will also benefit the TCC Perry Center and help expand the Regional Automotive Center. The Hampton Roads Community Foundation gave the TCC Perry Center a $500,000 grant spread over five years. Stanley Black & Decker earned the Chancellor’s Award for Leadership in Philanthropy for its support of the Skilled Trades Academy. Black & Decker donated $275,000 in new industry tools and equipment, the biggest in-kind investment by the company ever in the commonwealth. The SunTrust Foundation’s $75,000 grant will support the Skilled Trades Academy. Builders & Contractors Exchange funded $5,000 in scholarships for the academy. The Don Carey REECH Foundation also gifted TCC’s Women’s Center STEM Promise Program with $2,500.

Jim Hixon provided a generous gift for the TCC Perry Center.

4. It’s never been easier to transfer from TCC to Old Dominion University or Virginia Wesleyan University. The Guaranteed Transfer Partnership Agreement, signed in September, ensures a seamless transfer to ODU for TCC graduates. The Fair Transfer Guarantee Agreement between VWU and TCC allows graduates who earn arts or science associate degrees to enter VWU as juniors.

3. TCC put into action plans to eliminate food insecurity among its students. The college and the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore are new partners in a five-year initiative to eliminate the food insecurity that impedes many TCC students from completing their higher education. TowneBank’s $250,000 donation will go toward the food. A Campus-Based Pantry and Food Scholarship Program are in the works and a mobile pantry on the Norfolk and Portsmouth campuses started in the fall. In addition, a partnership between the Virginia Beach Campus and the city’s Department of Human Services gives TCC counselors and advisers a streamlined way to refer Virginia Beach students to the resources they need. Students can receive food, mental health counseling and housing support.

Physics Professor David Wright went viral.

2. Student Erica Church’s tweet on the animated teaching style of Professor David Wright made a big bang. The viral post, viewed by more than 30 million people, created headlines around the world and led to the beloved physics professor granting interviews to Yahoo, the BBC, NPR and Good Morning America. He and students Church and Kierra Brothers will appear on “The Kelly Clarkson Show” on Jan. 26.

1. Welcome, President Conston! The college’s sixth permanent president, hired Oct. 15, assumed the role on Jan. 6, 2020.

Going viral with David Wright

Tidewater Community College students have always known how special physics Professor David Wright is. Now the rest of the world knows, too.

Less than 24 hours after TCC student Erica Church shared a video montage on Twitter of the professor who thinks nothing of hopping on pogo sticks, lying flat on a bed of nails and walking barefoot over broken glass to demonstrate the laws of physics, the post went viral.

More than 25 million (and counting) have watched the 1:42 clip of Wright’s stunts that make his physics classrooms the opposite of boring (a million more tuned in on Instagram).

Church, taking Wright’s class as a prerequisite for TCC’s sonography program, started the day with fewer than 100 followers. She’s now nearly 6,000.

“I was expecting a few likes,” said Church, who initially shared the video in a group chat with her classmates. They encouraged her to put it on social media, but nobody expected what happened next.

Wright came to work in the Science Building on Thursday thinking it was just another day in his career that began 45 years ago at TCC. But by 11 a.m., Church’s Tweet had a million-plus views, and media requests for Wright began to swell.

What started with WTKR and The Virginian-Pilot expanded to Wright chatting with BuzzFeed, Good Morning America and NBC News. The “India Times” picked up the story. “The Kelly Clarkson Show” reached out and he talked with NPR Education in New York.

He had to give an exam at 5:45 p.m. (he also teaches astronomy), but fit in one final phone interview with a Yahoo reporter first.

Media requests continued to pile in the next day with, CNN, BBC,, WAVY-TV and many other publications from India to Italy.

“I’ve always thought students should be taught how science can be fun,” said Wright, whose interactive antics make him a “Rate-My-Professors” favorite among students from visiting universities, too. During TCC summer session, it’s not unusual to see multiple students from Old Dominion and James Madison University fulfilling their general education science requirement by taking Wright’s introductory physics class.

“Maybe this will encourage more physics professors to talk to students about more than equations in class,” he said.

The 69-year-old, a father of four and grandfather to seven, demonstrates Newton’s Laws of Motion by rolling a bowling bowl down the hallway and teaches convection by setting a blaze outside. He was named the college’s Professor of the Year in 2017.

“He clearly loves this subject,” Church said. “He loves to make it fun for us and it’s great to see someone who loves his job that way.”

You never know who might sign up for Elements of Physics now.

Better hurry and register! Spring classes start on Jan. 13, and we know at least one science class that’s filling up!

Church, by the way, got an A!