Teaching Excellence Award

Each year, the Parkland College Teaching Excellence Award is presented to a full- or part-time faculty member who is doing an exceptional job delivering their course content, engaging students in learning, and continuing to grow through professional development activities. 

The recipient of the Parkland Teaching Excellence Award is named each fall. The awarding process involves being nominated for the award, department chair endorsement, the submission of materials that address the established criteria, and the evaluation of the materials by the PCA Professional Development Subcommittee for Faculty.

The benefits for the award recipient include:

  • $1,000 for professional development
  • registration to a national teaching and learning conference (to be determined by the College)
  • recognition at commencement and at a Parkland College Board of Trustees meeting

2024 Parkland Teaching Excellence Award Recipient


Dr. Sarah Grison

Sarah has a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience and thinks of herself as a teacher-scholar. She is a Professor of Psychology at Parkland College where she has also taught First Year Experience courses to undergraduates. Sarah conducts action research in her classroom to help improve students' abilities to pay attention, remember, and learn material, as well as improve their study skills. 

Sarah is the advisor of two psychology clubs at Parkland, the Psychology Club and the Parkland chapter of Psi Beta, which is the national honor society in psychology for community college students. Sarah is a Champion for the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, where she provides workshops and discussion groups about the skills students need to succeed in college and where she also helps teachers develop evidence-based teaching skills.

Sarah puts psychology into practice when writing introductory psychology textbooks, creating evidence-based instructors’ resources, writing articles and book chapters about the cognitive science of teaching and learning, and giving presentations on this topic at national conferences and colleges. 

She is a member of the American Psychological Association (Divisions 3 and 15); the Society for the Teaching of Psychology; the Association for Psychological Science; the International Mind, Brain, and Education Society; the American Educational Research Association; the American Association of Community Colleges; and the Illinois Community College Faculty Association. 

Sarah and her husband are parents to four teenagers (plus three cats and a dog), so they use psychology in their lives every day.

Past Winners

2023 Winner

2023 Parkland Teaching Excellence Award Recipient

Dr. C. Britt Carlson

Britt Carlson

A professor ofchemistry and member of the Natural Sciences full-time faculty since 2013, Britt’simpressive list of activities includes serving as the principal investigator oftwo National Science Foundation grants; the development and implementation ofParkland Science Scholar Seminar, a 4-semester series; and the development andimplementation of course-based research experience for General Chemistry I,which involved the creation of 12 laboratory protocols. She is also thefounding advisor of the Parkland Science Club, and she is a six-year member ofthe Illinois Articulation Initiative (IAI) biology major panel.

Britt iscommitted to engaging students from diverse backgrounds in science scholarshipand career exploration, and she seeks to create opportunities in and out of theclassroom that provide relevant, inclusive experiences.

About Britt, acolleague wrote:

“Dr. Carlson’scommitment to her students can be highlighted by the innovative opportunitiesshe provides to her students. During the pandemic, when most instructors werejust trying to stay afloat, Dr. Carlson used that opportunity to redesign herlaboratory experiences. As a result, she currently provides students with aCourse-Based Undergraduate Research Experience (CUREs). CUREs are known to helpclose the achievement gap by providing students with experience that promotecritical thinking, cohort building, and relevance. She created this initiativefrom scratch, focusing on soil, a theme relevant to most students in the area.The development and implementation of this initiative shows her innovativemind, and commitment to provide cutting-edge education.” 

2022 Winner

Manny Rodriguez

Manny Rodriguez.png

Manny, an associate professor of chemistry in the Natural Sciences department, has been a full-time faculty member since 2010. He is currently pursuing a doctorate in education from Northern Illinois University. He has a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Illinois and a bachelors degree in chemistry from the University of Puerto Rico.

A letter of recommendation noted: “Manny has an incredible ability to connect with his students, aided by his great sense of humor, humility, and laid-back persona. In the classroom setting Manny becomes energized and entertaining in a way that few faculty can. … His rapport with students can be observed in many different settings with frequent office visits, bantering with students in the Science Commons where he spends a significant amount of time tutoring students, or simply sharing with students about life outside the classroom.”

Manny has participated in dozen of hours of professional development and has chaired multiple PCA committees during his tenure at Parkland. Manny currently serves his department as assistant to the chair, and he is a member of the assessment and general education objectives committees in PCA. A current goal of his is to create an open lab space on campus where current and prospective students can work with faculty on developing lab experiences that spark interest in pursuing careers in STEM-related fields.

2021 Winner

Deb Bucher

Deb Bucher

Deb is a member of the nursing faculty in Parkland’s health professions department. She joined the faculty full-time in 2009.

In a letter submitted to the selection committee on Deb’s behalf, a colleague wrote, “Debbie Bucher is truly a phenomenal educator. Debbie is proud to tell you that she attended Parkland’s nursing program. She is always attending conferences to gather and incorporate new and state-of-the-art teaching modalities into her courses. Even when she is working as a home care nurse she will volunteer to take fourth semester community health students on to teach them the art of home care. Students fight for the opportunity to work alongside Ms. Bucher as she provides outstanding nursing care. Debbie is always willing to go the extra mile to help a student succeed.”

Deb has a reputation for her positive attitude and dancing in class! A student comment in her submission materials states: “Mrs. Bucher is the type of instructor every nursing student dreams of having. Her approach to teaching is one of a kind and is one of the reasons why students like me chose to pursue a nursing degree.”

2020 Winner

Kendra McClure

Kendra McClure

Originally from east central Illinois, Kendra McClure grew up in Indiana and began her career as a public relations professional in St. Louis. She enjoyed her time working in PR, but after a few encounters with unethical media outlets (stories she’d be glad to share over coffee sometime), the classroom started calling her name. She wanted the opportunity to teach up and coming communication professionals the importance of ethics. That new drive to teach led her back to Illinois and into graduate school. She joined the Parkland faculty part time in 2009 and started teaching full time in 2010.

Kendra teaches courses related to mass media, advertising, and public relations. She is also a faculty advisor for Applied Media Promotions (AMP), Parkland’s on-campus, student-staffed strategic communications firm. AMP was honored to receive the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation's Innovation in Engagement Award in 2015, and Kendra was named Parkland’s Online Teaching Excellence Award winner in 2018.

Kendra holds a Master of Arts in Communication Studies from Eastern Illinois University and a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations from Valparaiso University. She is also accredited in public relations by the Public Relations Society of America. When she’s not on campus, Kendra enjoys spending time with her husband and their three children.

Past winners (2006 – 2019)

2019 – Lauren O’Connor

2018 – Chris Warren

2017 – Yelda Aydin-Mullen

2016 – Toni Burkhalter

2015 – Amy Meyers

2014 – Peg Boyce

2013 – Kevin Hastings

As NISOD Excellence Award:

2012 – Matt Hurt

2011 – Gina Walls

2010 – Carolyn Ragsdale

2009 – Fay Rouseff Baker

2009 – Terry Adcock

2008 – Omar Adawi

2007 – Ted Powers

2006 – Pam Lau

2006 – Rebecca Bahnke