Distinguished Teaching Awardees Inspire Students and Colleagues

April 3, 2018

Faculty at Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) teach and mentor students, conduct research, help lead the college and serve the community. The BMCC Distinguished Teaching Award recognizes faculty whose sustained excellence in these areas incites intellectual curiosity in students, inspires colleagues and demonstrates innovative pedagogy with clear evidence of student learning gains.

The Distinguished Teaching Award winners for 2018 are Sharon Avni, tenured Associate professor in the Academic Literacy and Linguistics Department; Paula Field, tenured Assistant Professor of Nursing; Janice Mahinka, an Adjunct Lecturer of Music in the Department of Music and Art; and Lara Stapleton, a Lecturer in the Department of English.

The awardees were selected from nearly 400 nominations submitted by students, faculty and staff at BMCC. The winners and finalists will be celebrated at a reception in Richard Harris Terrace, 199 Chambers Street, on April 17 at 5 p.m., and all members of the BMCC community are invited to attend.

“These distinguished teachers inspire their students and their colleagues every day,” said Karrin E. Wilks, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs.

“The members of the Distinguished Teaching Award committee were impressed by the quality of the nominees for this award,” said Janice Walters, Chair of both the Teacher Education Department and Distinguished Teacher Award Selection Committee. “The faculty of BMCC are inspirational teachers and pedagogical leaders in their profession.”

2018 Distinguished Teaching Awardees
BMCC Professor Sharon Avni

Sharon Avni is an Associate Professor of ESL and Linguistics in the Department of Academic Literacy and Linguistics. She has taught a variety of classes, including online, hybrid and face-to-face models of Forensic Linguistics, Language and Culture, and academic writing. In Fall 2017, she was awarded the CUNY Research in the Classroom Grant and created a special section of LIN100 (Language and Culture), in which students engaged in case study research, documenting and analyzing language use at religious sites in New York City.

As of Spring 2018, Avni is the faculty mentor for the Gateway Initiative at BMCC, a three-semester program that helps faculty build the retention rates of their introductory courses. Along with Professor Heather Finn, a colleague in the Academic Literacy and Linguistics Department, she has conducted studies on academic literacy and accelerated models of teaching writing at community colleges. In addition, her scholarship addresses Hebrew language teaching and learning in public and private schools and other educational contexts in the United States. She has published widely in academic journals and edited books, and presented at a wide variety of academic conferences. Currently, she is involved in several funded studies examining Hebrew teaching in public schools and private contexts.

BMCC Professor Paula Field

Paula Field is a tenured Assistant Professor of Nursing whose experience and research focuses on maternal, newborn and women’s healthcare. In addition to teaching courses at BMCC in obstetrical and psychiatric nursing care, in 2009 Professor Field developed an interactive, web-based remediation program for at-risk nursing students, providing them with study and test-taking skills to develop critical thinking. She earned an Associate in Nursing degree from BMCC in 1986 and continued her education at Long Island University and New York University. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in nursing practice from Fairleigh Dickinson University.

In addition to serving on the faculty at BMCC, Field has practiced as a Registered Nurse, Certified Nurse Midwife and Nurse Practitioner. Her passion for education began in the health care facilities where she started her career, developing teaching staff improvement projects. She has presented widely in nursing education conferences, published in nursing journals and contributed to nursing textbooks. A commitment to equity has led Professor Field to participate in activities such as serving on a panel at a BMCC Conference on Global Health Issues. She also led students in a service-learning project with the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System, guiding and evaluating their performance during a simulated disaster drill. “Our students benefit by learning firsthand about disaster preparedness and response, as well as by participating in community service,” says Field. “I hold the bar high but they know I am on their side. When they feel overwhelmed by the rigorousness of a nursing education I remind them, ‘The expert in anything was once a beginner’.”

BMCC Professor Janice Mahinka

Janice Mahinka has been teaching music at BMCC since January 2013. She holds a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from The Graduate Center, CUNY, and an M.A. in Musicology from Boston University. Besides teaching survey courses in Western art music and African-American music, Professor Mahinka has worked to create writing-intensive courses in world music.

“I want to empower students to become active and confident participants in the learning process, while understanding the interconnectedness of individuals within their communities—both locally and globally,” says Mahinka, who strives to create inclusive classrooms and workspaces, as well as provide relevant and inspiring curricula for students through a variety of methods, including Open Educational Resources/Zero-Cost Textbook course designs. “I think it’s important to value the knowledges and experiences that BMCC’s diverse students bring to the classroom,” she says. “I also encourage students to build learning communities, much in the way we, as faculty, have built learning communities with our colleagues at BMCC.”

BMCC Professor Lara Stapleton

Lara Stapleton, a Lecturer in the BMCC English Department, started her teaching career as a graduate student in English at New York University. She taught as an adjunct in New York City for 14 years before joining BMCC in 2009 and earning a Certificate of Continuous Employment—similar to tenure—in 2014.

“I believe in a very student-centered approach and work hard to remind students of their potential and to rise above any doubt,” says Stapleton, who has been the Faculty Advisor of the BMCC creative writing club, The Writers’ Guild, for the last eight years and inspires emerging writers with her own work as a writer and literary editor. Her collection of short stories, The Lowest Blue Flame Before Nothing, from Aunt Lute Press, is a Pen Open Book Committee Selection and her current project is a teleplay about New Orleans, for which she received sabbatical in 2015. This work examines the history of miscegenation in that city, including the trial of a woman whose family background and racial heritage came into legal question. With family and roots in both East Lansing, Michigan and the Philippines, Stapleton is an advocate for students at BMCC who are negotiating unfamiliar cultural landscapes as they complete their studies and find their voices as writers.

2018 Distinguished Teaching Award Finalists

Tess Bilhartz, Music and Art

Marcus Dargan, Speech, Communication and Theater Arts

Elisa Decker, Music and Art

Diane Dowling, Speech, Communication and Theater Arts

Melissa Eder, Academic Literacy and Linguistics

Rosemary George, Music and Art

Andrew Gottlieb, English

Alan Greenhalgh, Math

Carlos Hernandez, English

Maureen Matarese, Academic Literacy and Linguistics

Chris McCarthy, Mathematics

Frederick Reese, Mathematics

Lesley Rennis, Health Education

Gary Richards, English

Rifat Salam, Social Sciences, Human Services and Criminal Justice

Mary Sepp, Academic Literacy and Linguistics

Ioannis Tournas, Business Management

Michael Volonakis, Music and Art

Judith Yancey, Academic Literacy and Linguistics

Eugenia Yau, Music and Art

Shirley Zaragoza, Business Management

The Distinguished Teacher Award committee, formed by the BMCC Academic Senate, was chaired by Professor Janice Walters (Teacher Education) and included members Jim Berg, Associate Dean of Faculty, and Professors Jacob Kramer (Social Sciences, Human Services and Criminal Justice), Benjamin Powell (Speech, Communication and Theater Arts), Jill Richardson (English), Sarah Salm (Science), Brett Sims (Mathematics) and Shirley Zaragoza (Business Management).

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  • 2018 Distinguished Teaching Awardees are Sharon Avni, Paula Field, Janice Mahinka and Lara Stapleton
  • BMCC students, faculty and staff may nominate candidates, and selection committee is formed by BMCC Academic Senate
  • Reception for winners and finalists will be held April 17 at 5 p.m. in Richard Harris Terrace

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