Recognizing Achievement with Employee Awards

Kofi Poku stands cheerfully beside colleagues on the stage inside the Student Center with the Full-Time Teacher of the Year Award plaque in his hands.
Kate Kirkpatrick

Faculty and staff members who go above and beyond their job responsibilities reside in all departments across TMCC–and each spring, they are recognized in a special Annual Employee Awards Ceremony. We applaud this year’s nominees and winners in all categories and thank them for their dedication to student success!

We asked a few of this year’s award recipients to share their thoughts on what drives them in the classroom or their role on campus. Their words are inspirational, and they all share a resolve to see students reach their full potential.

Distinguished Faculty Excellence in Teaching: Dr. Cecilia Vigil

Dr. Cecilia Vigil, Biology Professor, nurtures her students’ curiosity and passion for science, guiding them in meaningful research projects and hands-on fieldwork, such as milkweed habitat restoration. Her innovative approach to teaching, underscored by her leadership in the Year of Sustainability initiative, has fostered academic growth and instilled a keen awareness of sustainability issues among students and faculty alike.

Vigil’s role in creating a broad spectrum of undergraduate research opportunities and her enthusiastic adoption of Open Educational Resources demonstrates her unwavering commitment to making science accessible and engaging for all students.

“I look forward to working with colleagues as we develop curricula and undergraduate research opportunities, and I look forward to creating healthy environments where students can learn, be engaged, understand, grow their skills, and leave my classrooms prepared for their next step in their academic and professional careers,” says Vigil.

“I truly believe in the benefits of education; therefore, I look forward to further professional development opportunities and, this way, grow in my field and pedagogy realm,” Vigil continued. “Education is indispensable in my family; thus, I dedicate this to my parents, who inspired me to go to school, to my children, but, overall, to my better half who is always supportive, encouraging, and inspiring.”

Distinguished Faculty Excellence in Service: Sidney Sullivan

Career Hub Program Director Sidney Sullivan is a pivotal figure in workforce development. She shares her expertise in her dedication to students, particularly in managing and enhancing vital programs like the SANDI initiative and the Tech Careers FastTrack Program. Her role in these programs has been instrumental in supporting students facing significant barriers, including displaced homemakers, SNAP assistance recipients, and recently released felons.

“I love what I do. I love seeing how we can help students find their path and help them through the barriers. It’s the best of what a community college can do–help the community members to find their best selves through education and career choices,” said Sullivan. “I’m pleased and humbled to be honored.”

Sullivan’s impact extends beyond TMCC through her significant involvement in community service. Since 2005, she has been a Bridges Out of Poverty training initiative facilitator, contributing to Washoe County’s educational and community development. Her dedication to the community extends to serving as Vice President of the Opportunity Alliance of Nevada Board.

“It sounds obvious, but a community college is here for the community,” continued Sullivan. “Partnering with agencies and employers, helping students, especially those with challenges and barriers, and helping to raise the level of the community...That’s what we should and can do. I’m excited to be in this amazing organization whose mission is helping the community.”

Classified Employee of the Year: Izumi Shibasaki

Izumi Shibasaki excels as a Library Technician at TMCC, where her dedication significantly benefits the Library, Learning Commons, and all of TMCC.

According to her nomination materials, Shibasaki consistently excels at her duties to enhance student, faculty, and staff services. She has played a pivotal role in organizing the library open houses and took a lead role in this year’s new student-focused event, Library After Dark. Shibasaki led a grant application for a plotter printer that enables students to make poster-size prints for their courses, and she excels in financial stewardship, negotiating the prices we pay for subscriptions. Her leadership and service commitment make her an invaluable member of TMCC.

“I am deeply honored and humbled to receive this award, which undoubtedly reflects the incredible work done by the Library team, and I am grateful to be a part of such an exceptional group!” said Shibasaki.

PTK Full-Time Teacher of the Year: Dr. Kofi Poku

Being nominated by students for this honor means a great deal to the recipient each year, and Dr. Kofi Poku, Management Instructor, is no exception.

“To me, this (award) means that whatever I am doing to and for students is very much appreciated by the students and that I am impacting their lives positively,” says Poku. “This is humbling to me, and I see it as a great honor.”

In his marketing and leadership courses, Poku is thrilled when students succeed inside and outside the classroom. He also serves as the advisor for the Business and Entrepreneurship Club (BE Club), which had a busy year with regular meetings, including guest speakers and community outreach.

From Poku’s Nomination by Students:

Poku’s commitment to fostering a vibrant learning environment extends beyond the classroom.  His approach to teaching and mentorship notably distinguishes his willingness to invest personal time in helping students. He embodies the qualities of patience, understanding, and expertise, making complex concepts accessible to everyone. His dedication to student success is evident in the personalized support he offers, ensuring that each student feels valued and motivated to reach their potential.

Poku responds to these sincere words of praise in his signature humble manner. “(I connect with students) by teaching with all my heart and ability, showing kindness and compassion, motivating and inspiring my students towards achieving high standards, and providing them with every support I can marshal to see them successful.”

Newly Tenured Faculty

An extraordinary accomplishment for academic faculty in their professional career is the achievement of tenure. The Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents approved five TMCC faculty members for tenure:

  • Dr. Frank Amankonah (Mathematics)
  • Karla Henricksen (Mathematics)
  • Minsung Jung (Mathematics)
  • Julie McMahon (Veterinary Nursing)
  • Joseph Sanpietro (English)

And the Other Awards Go To:

These are just a few of the remarkable faculty and staff honored this year. For more information, please visit the Annual Employee Awards Flip Book for lists and biographies.