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TCC annual award winners go the extra mile during COVID-19 pandemic

Tidewater Community College recognizes five faculty and staff members from across the college with annual special awards on Aug. 19.

Selected by their peers, the honorees will receive their awards at TCC’s 2021 Fall Convocation to be held at the college’s Chesapeake Campus.

Professor of the Year

Kimberly Jones at the Virginia Beach Campus.

Kimberly Jones, 52, is the Professor of the Year as chosen by the Faculty Senate. Jones is professor of Funeral Service and has been teaching at the college since 2006.

Funeral Service Program Head Frank Walton credits Jones with helping students succeed in the science of funeral services. “Our students continually score well above the national average on the science segments of the national boards,” Walton said. “Kim excels at taking complex topics and applying them to the day-to-day operations of the funeral home. She is also energetic and really cares about her students and it shows in her work.”

During the pandemic, Jones kept her students learning by developing videos on YouTube, Zoom and Canvas demonstrating skeletal armatures and facial features for her Restorative Arts labs. She modeled each skill in her home and then made the videos available so students could go back and review them.

“My goal is to teach students how to think and then by empowering them with that skill, they can apply it anywhere – the sciences, economics, English and more,” Jones said. 

Jones, a Chesapeake resident, is working on her doctorate in emerging infectious diseases and epidemiology through Walden University. She holds a master’s of life sciences and biology from University of Maryland, College Park; a bachelor’s in biology from Old Dominion University; and an Associate of Applied Science in Mortuary Science from the University of the District of Columbia.

“I’m humbled and honored by this award and more determined than ever to provide quality education to every student I serve,” she said.

In her free time, Jones enjoys weight training, dancing, do-it-yourself projects and spending time with family and friends. Jones has been married to her husband Rodney for 23 years and the couple has three adult children: Raven, Rodney Jr. and Kole. 

Faculty Special Achievement

Shana Haines at the Portsmouth Campus.

Shana Haines, associate professor of English, was honored by the Faculty Senate with the Faculty Special Achievement award for her innovative teaching and dedication to student development.

TCC students who study under Haines do not just learn about writing and literature. They study law, they apply concepts from math and science, and they develop critical thinking skills.

“My job is to help create thinkers,” she said. “It’s not to tell students what to think but how to think.”

Haines says that teaching during the pandemic was intensely stressful but also very rewarding. Her goal was to create a learning community on Zoom where classroom discussions could continue. “I was really

driven to create the kind of environment where students learn best,” she said. “When you see students excited about learning, engaged and involved, that’s the best feeling.”

Haines, 51, created and hosted a free, nationwide virtual conference entitled “Turning on the Light of Truth: A Teach-In for Social Justice and Racial Equality,” offering free education into some of today’s current social justice and racial inequality issues. She arranged for nationally recognized scholars to participate and facilitated the sessions.

Haines earned her bachelor’s in film studies with a minor in English at Texas Christian University, a master’s in British and American literature at Hunter College and a Juris Doctor from Boston University. She is currently a doctoral candidate focusing on American Studies at the College of William & Mary.

Haines enjoys gardening and traveling. She resides in Franklin with her spouse, Jamie Haines, a TCC English instructor. The couple has two rescue dogs – Miles and Watson.

Outstanding Adjunct Faculty

Petia Downey at the Norfolk Campus.

Petia Downey, recipient of the Outstanding Adjunct Faculty award, says she can’t believe she gets paid for doing a job she loves so much. Downey, instructor of English as a second language, learned to speak English as a child when she moved to the United States from Bulgaria. 

“I remember the ESL classes I took and how that set me on track to also learn Spanish and some French,” she said.

During the pandemic, Downey, 32, became a resource for colleagues who had to quickly transition to teaching online via Zoom and Canvas. “I’d never taught online before but found that I was skilled in creating quality courses,” she said.

Downey, a Suffolk resident, also enjoys teaching and tutoring students in face-to-face classes on the Virginia Beach Campus.

Professional development is important to Downey, and she recently attended the international Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages conference where she focused on reading. The information she gleaned from the conference was shared with TCC’s ESL committee and influenced book selections that will provide benefits to students for years to come.

“It’s really rewarding to see students finish their ESL classes and then continue with their programs of study,” Downey said. “I’m also grateful to know my colleagues appreciate my contributions.”

Downey holds a master’s in applied linguistics with a concentration in teaching English as a second language and a bachelor’s in Spanish.

When she is not teaching, Downey enjoys reading, watching movies and spending time with her husband, Jason, and their dog, Rex.

Nancy Jones on the Portsmouth Campus.

Classified Employee of the Year

Nancy Jones
was recognized by the college’s Classified Association for her innovative approach to lab learning during the pandemic. Jones is the lab science manager on the Portsmouth Campus.

“There are many people deserving of this award and I’m humbled and honored to be recognized in this way,” Jones said.

Jones, 63, typically sets up labs for science students, but the transition to virtual learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic prompted Jones to work with professors for a solution for at-home lab work. Typically, science kits for at-home labs cost students $140. Jones used everyday items, including peroxide, vinegar, food coloring, sugar and fruit to make kits that were free of charge for students.

Jones, a Suffolk resident, collected and assembled all the nonperishable items for the kits in her home and even color-coded them for easy distribution at the Portsmouth Campus. When students came to campus to pick up the kits during a drive-through event, she even ensured they had the right size gloves before they left campus.

“The pandemic was difficult for everyone, and I was glad to do my part to facilitate learning,” Jones said. “It was wonderful to connect with students while being COVID-19 compliant.”

Jones also volunteered with The Community Feed at TCC at MacArthur Center and at Foodbank pop-up markets on Portsmouth Campus where she bagged up collard greens and other vegetables for students.

She served as co-chair of the Classified Association and developed mini-zoom events to answer COVID-19 pandemic questions and facilitate the staff’s return to work.

“The college community has been a very important part of my life,” Jones said. Six months after I started here full-time, my husband died unexpectedly. The job saved me, and the people here became my family.”

Jones enjoys gardening, quilting, reading and travel. She has rescued many cats and a few dogs and given them a home on her farm.

Wage Employee of the Year

Daniel Owens at the Virginia Beach Campus.

TCC alum Daniel Owens, the reference desk assistant in the Joint-Use Library, is the Wage Employee of the Year. Owens, 42, started at TCC as a student worker in 1996 and has been a dedicated library staffer for more than 25 years.

“The atmosphere at TCC makes this a great place to work,” Owens said. “The students are my priority, and my goal is to always get them the answers and resources they need.”

The Virginia Beach resident earned an Associate of Science in Computer Science at TCC in 2002.

“When facing any challenge at work, Danny’s creativity and technical know-how often combine to result in a solution that is not necessarily obvious but usually works out better in the end for the patron,” said Brittany Horn, interim director of the JUL. “Danny has an amazing, understated way of interacting with the wide variety of library users we see every day. He is requested frequently by students and public patrons returning to the library because he demonstrates knowledgeability, competence and patience.”

Owens enjoys wood burning, model cars, and his Raspberry Pi web server. In his free time, Owens spends time playing pool in the Virginia Beach Student Center.

TCC annual award winners to be honored on Aug. 23

Tidewater Community College will recognize five faculty and staff members from across the college with annual special awards on Aug. 23.

Selected by their peers, the honorees will receive their awards at TCC’s 2019 Fall Convocation at the Chesapeake Campus Student Center.

Professor of the Year

Professor Debra Duffy at the Norfolk Campus
Professor Debra Duffy at the Norfolk Campus.

Debra Duffy, who teaches geology and oceanography, is TCC’s Professor of the Year, an award established by the Faculty Senate to recognize excellence.

Duffy, 60, has made waves in learning with a partnership with Nauticus, enabling students to complete service learning projects while gaining hands-on experience and leadership skills.

Oceanography students design, build and test their own Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) in the Seabots Design Lab at the Norfolk maritime science center and museum. Once they master the challenge, they share what they’ve learned during daily ROV building and testing workshops with Nauticus guests and community members.

“It means a great deal to be recognized for my work, and it makes me want to build on what I’m doing,” Duffy said. “I really enjoy the community college setting and the caring nature of our staff and faculty. I see all of this goodwill trickling down to our students and that’s really what we’re all about.”

The Norfolk resident started as a field geologist in industry. Her work included wetlands delineation and mitigation, which she enjoyed despite the tick bites and stings. When the research lab closed, she began teaching in high school, and since 2016, has taught at the Norfolk Campus. Duffy is the discipline lead for geology and oceanography.

“I love learning my students’ stories and helping them through any trials, so they can meet their educational and life goals,” she added.

Duffy holds a bachelor’s and master’s in geology and a Ph.D. in science education, all from Old Dominion University.

She and husband Bernie have two grown children.

Faculty Special Achievement

Professor Gregg Tennefoss at the Virginia Beach Campus.
Professor Gregg Tennefoss at the Virginia Beach Campus.

Picture it and you can make it, Professor Gregg Tennefoss tells students at TCC. The man who is crafting a Lamborghini in his driveway had the vision to create a maker space inside the Advanced Technology Center at the Virginia Beach Campus. The space allows students access to equipment and support to build whatever they can imagine from cabinet drawer parts to robots.

“The space is open to all students, not just STEM students,” said Tennefoss, noting one student started designing her own jewelry. “If you have an idea, we can help you make whatever you want.”

Tennefoss 60, joined TCC 24 years ago, initially as an adjunct before being hired as a full-time information technology professor in 1995. He holds associate degrees from the college in business and accounting and a certificate in data processing. He went on to earn his bachelor’s in computers and education and a master’s in management information systems, both from Old Dominion.

“I was studying to be an architect, started playing with computers and realized that was a lot more fun,”  he said.

The maker space opened a little more than a year ago in H206. Inside are three electronic stations, a laser engraver cutter, 3-D printers, woodworking tools – a gamut of accessories that fuel the creative juices. “Write it down and we’ll figure out together how to make it,” is his approach to students who want to try their hand at the internet of things.

As for that Lamborghini, he’s not using a kit. “I’m making it from the wheels up,” he said. “Motor’s done, suspension’s done. It’s a lot of work.”

Tennefoss and wife Dawn Marie reside in Chesapeake. They have three adult children and five grandchildren.

Outstanding Adjunct Faculty

Professor Elizabeth Harris at Portsmouth Campus.
Professor Elizabeth Harris at Portsmouth Campus.

Elizabeth Harris, recipient of the Outstanding Adjunct Faculty award, embraces the start of another fall semester with the same enthusiasm as she did 31 years ago. That’s how long she’s taught history, humanities and occasionally, French, at TCC.

“I love it here,” she said from her office at the Portsmouth Campus. “I’ve always loved to teach at TCC. You get to teach a broad spectrum of ages. I especially enjoy helping students who are first-generation in college.”

Harris’ unique background brings an authenticity to her classes that engages students. Her parents were missionaries. She grew up in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where, decades later, Osama bin Laden met his end. Harris, 68, didn’t move to this country until her college years, settling in Hampton Roads given her mother’s roots in Deep Creek. She earned bachelor’s degrees in history and French along with a master’s in history, all from Old Dominion. In addition, she completed 24 graduate hours in French literature as well as numerous graduate credits in economics and philosophy.

Harris retired from public high school in 2017 after teaching social studies and French for 26 years in Portsmouth and Chesapeake. At TCC, she frequently mentors international students and other navigating the transfer process.  “Being raised in the Third World, when we have international students or even students in the military, I understand many of their challenges,” she said. “You can really be helpful to students at a very transformational time in their lives.”

Portsmouth residents Harris and husband David have two adult daughters and two grandchildren. Harris enjoys mission work and spent the summer teaching everything from literacy to chess to crafts at the Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota. Her fun fact? Harris is the sixth great grand-daughter of Roger Sherman, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

Classified Employee of the Year

Mary Beth Apperson at the Norfolk Campus.
Mary Beth Apperson at Norfolk Campus.

Mary Beth Apperson is the Classified Employee of the Year. She has been with the college for more than 20 years and currently serves as manager of Visual Communications. Apperson continually emphasizes the importance of internal and external customer service, magnifying her staff’s strengths.

Apperson, 52, and her team provide the college community with everything visual – from simple flyers, brochures, video and signage.

She encourages her team to use organizational design thinking beyond the walls of the department to see how Visual Communications can serve the college, students and creatively support the TCC Educational Foundation, the TCC Real Estate Foundation and the Center for Workforce Solutions.

“Every day is a new challenge at TCC, and that’s how I like it,” Apperson said. “I’m humbled, honored and grateful for this award. To know that it came from people I work with means a whole lot.”

Apperson holds a bachelor’s in fine arts with a specialization in graphic design from Old Dominion. The Norfolk native is also an alumna and former adjunct faculty member of TCC, having taken and taught graphic design classes at the college.

Apperson and husband Carlton have a son, Matthew, who recently graduated from Virginia Tech.

Wage Employee of the Year

Pinkey Brown at Chesapeake Campus.
Pinkey Brown at Chesapeake Campus.

TCC alumna Pinkey Brown, the Chesapeake Campus welcome desk supervisor, is the Wage Employee of the Year.

Brown came to TCC after working as a store manager for Super K-Mart for 22 years. Brown came to retrain for a second career and found a new home.

The Chesapeake resident started as a Work-Study student while earning her associate degree with a perfect GPA.

She now welcomes students, staff and faculty with a warm smile and encouraging words. She is well known on campus for her enthusiasm and “can do” work ethic.

“My purpose, when someone walks through those doors, is to make sure they get what they need. I make a point to get to know names, so I can direct people to the right locations in the building,” she said. “I always feel so much joy when working with students. I love my job and know that this is where I’m supposed to be.”