Photo courtesy of PCC Archives/Shatford Library Roland Sink, J. Ray Risser, and Dorothy Kolts at Pasadena City College. Dorothy Kolts and Roland Sink happily receive the Jay Risser Award at Pasadena City College.
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The PCC Foundation is taking nominations for the annual Risser Outstanding Teacher Award. The cash award is presented annually to a nominated faculty member who has given outstanding service and contributions to the PCC community.

The award was created by Jay Risser who was the chairman of Social Sciences in the 40s and passed away at 92 in 1986. He was adamant about giving teachers and faculty members the recognition they deserve and felt that they should be awarded for their hard work. In 1977, the first teacher award was given, and recipients can only be nominated by students. Then a Support of Education award was created to support people who are behind the scenes such as admins, classified people, custodians, etc. and those people can be nominated by students or faculty members of all sorts.

In order for a teacher to be a running recipient, students must collect at least 50 signatures in support of that nomination for the PCC Foundation to consider them a nominated teacher. Since the Support of Education award can be nominated by anyone, that one only needs 25 signatures.

“Some folks get really passionate about it because they really want their person to be elected,” said Kris McPeak, the PCC Foundation’s Director of Operations.

McPeak explained that the process can be complicated and difficult for the judges, as the judges are past winners of the Risser Award. They come and score everything and read testimonials written by students. McPeak says that sometimes professors have thick stacks of testimonials written by their students.

“Some people get very emotional,” stated McPeak.

The Risser Award is given at a luncheon the day before commencement and every year Don Anderson, Risser’s grandson, has come to the event and talked about Risser and his life. This changed last year when Anderson passed the torch to his son and daughter-in-law. There is always a Risser family representative, according to McPeak.

Teacher of the Year will receive $1,000 and the Support of Education recipient will receive $500. However, McPeak stated that winners don’t do this for the money. They genuinely care about what they do which is why they receive the award in the first place.

Despite many students being unaware of the award, they still have thoughts about what makes a professor outstanding.

“Passion and hearts for their students is really important,” stated Nick Santos.

Student Yeni Pineda shared how disinterested she becomes when a professor has too many lectures.

“I like when they explain well and keep it interesting,” Pineda said.

Other students expressed that professors can be intimidating and hard to talk to, however, it is refreshing when they feel that the professor is easy to talk to. Students say that is what differentiates a mediocre from an outstanding professor.

“I like when they are approachable and take the time to talk to their students,” said Kairra Palmieri.

Students have until May 14 at 4 p.m. to nominate a professor with 50 signatures in favor of that professor. The Foundation Office has now made it easier for students and created a Google document so they no longer have to to physically pick up a nomination form. McPeak encourages everyone, students and faculty, to nominate professors and staff.

“I look forward to this event so much,” said McPeak.

About Michelle Arias

Michelle Arias is the Lifestyle Editor at the Courier. She is majoring in Journalism and plans to pursue a career in documentary filmmaking or photojournalism. She has a passion for activism, political theory and fashion. When she is not writing articles, she can most likely be found in a thrift store hunting for vintage clothing or records and cassette tapes.

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