By Brittney Richerson
UPDATE: Amarillo College’s Faculty Senate will host a celebration of excellence to honor Dr. Kathryn Wetzel in the upstairs foyer of the College Union Building at 2 p.m. Monday, Nov. 28. The reception is open to AC faculty, staff and students.
Dr. Kathryn Wetzel, professor and chair of the department of mathematics, sciences and engineering, is the recipient of the 2011 Outstanding Community Colleges Professor of the Year award from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council of Advancement and Support of Education. She is one of four professors nationwide recognized for the impact they have made at their colleges and universities.
“This award is a great honor and quite a shock,” Wetzel said in a news release from AC. “I believe that a fundamental need of every human being is to make a difference in the lives of others.”
Wetzel and the other recipients received their awards at a ceremony today in Washington, D.C.
“Kathy Wetzel is someone who has high standards for herself and her department,” said Dr. Claudie Biggers, an associate professor of biological sciences. “Students are better students and faculty are better faculty because of her. We’re all very proud of her accomplishments and we are thankful that she is our representative and has put AC on the map.”
Wetzel’s career as an educator began after working as a nuclear engineer and being a stay-at-home mom. In her acceptance speech, Wetzel said she took her first teaching job at AC out of desperation because finances were tight with only her husband working.
“I say desperation because, although I had survived engineering, I was terminally shy in front of a group and was afraid I would not be able to speak a coherent sentence – much less explain difficult concepts – in front of a room full of students,” she said in her speech. “To my surprise, that first night teaching was fun. I found I liked entertaining the group with stories and explanations as to why things worked like they did.”
Wetzel has been teaching at AC for 26 years with the exception of one semester spent finishing her doctorate and one year spent teaching graduate-level classes at a research university, she said.
“Teaching changed me, helping me to become more assertive and outgoing while I worked diligently to help students struggling to learn,” Wetzel said in her speech. “You will never teach your students as much as they can teach you. I will never make as positive a difference in their lives as they have made in mine.”
According to a news release from CASE, judges were impressed by Wetzel’s use of real-world applications to teach math and engineering.
She also was recognized for creating the award-winning Math Outreach Center at AC, which provides about 23,000 tutoring sessions annually at no cost for students. The outreach center received the Star Award from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the John Champaign Memorial Award from the National Association for Developmental Education in 2009.
“The outreach center was her dream and it became an action,” said Tonya Hester, a lab supervisor. “Nobody works harder than she does and we’re all very proud of her. She deserves this more than anyone.”
Published: Friday, November 18, 2011