Being a pioneer of the Distance Education Department (DED), currently one of the most essential departments for student success at PCC during the pandemic, is one of many accomplishments for Assistant Geography Professor Dr. Rhea Presiado.

Just like students, the majority of faculty were suddenly forced into the online transition without prior training and proper equipment. Presiado, along with her 14 colleagues from the DED, has been mentoring and supporting other faculty who need help with remote instruction. This department has coordinated training on how to use Canvas, webinars on accessibility tools and getting certified as online instructors.

“The DED has really taken on a herculean task of being the ‘one-stop-shop’ for all things that faculty need to teach online effectively,” said Presiado. “I am so proud of my colleagues who have taken up online teaching with enthusiasm.”

Dr. Presiado helped to facilitate two sections of the PCC’s Online Teaching Certification Course and will help certify 40 faculty in online teaching this summer.

Presiado also developed the first fully online AA-T degree in Geography at PCC after a slow and methodical process that took eight years. Each year after getting certified to teach online, she took a class to review the material in depth and develop a fully online curriculum. By 2017, she had adapted several courses—five geography and one geology— for online delivery. An existing online anthropology class created the fully online path to a Geography AA-T degree.

“I enjoyed the professional challenge and the teaching creativity that developing the online degree sparked,” said Presiado. “I made sure that each online geography and geology course I developed uses free online textbooks to make them more affordable.”

Presiado loves online teaching because it forces her to get creative with the assignments, such as having the students document the physical geography of their neighborhood, citizen science projects and virtual field trips.

In addition to online classes, she teaches a variety of face-to-face different classes in the Natural Science Division, including geography, geology and environmental science courses.

“My [face-to-face] courses allow students to experience geography in their own life via field trips, geospatial technology, undergraduate research and real-world projects,” said Presiado.

Presiado studied at Long Beach City College, then transferred to the University of California, Berkeley (UCB), where she obtained a B.A. in geography. She earned a Ph.D. in geography at the University of California, Davis by studying the biogeography of smooth brittle stars, a type of a sea star.

“[A geography professor at UCB] taught me that I could take my hobbies—surfing, diving and hiking—and do that as a living, as a professional geographer,” said Presiado. “So that’s exactly what I did.”

Thus, geography is in every aspect of Presiado’s life.

Besides spending her free time exploring California geography with her family, she has adopted Project 333, a minimalist fashion lifestyle that contributes to sustainability. The idea is to curate one’s closet by selecting the best and most comfortable 33 items for three months, excluding workout clothes and undergarments.

“Who doesn’t want to save money, save the planet and feel good in your best clothes?” said Presiado. “I would highly recommend it to faculty, staff and students of PCC.”

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