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Center for Teaching and Learning

Focused Inquiry Groups (FIGs) - Title III

New Faculty Learning Community

by Patti Keeling

The goal for the new faculty was to expose them as much as possible to the college culture of Chabot. Most of them are experts in their fields or we wouldn’t have hired them, right? But whatever the level of expertise, entering a new institution is always a bit intimidating. I designed the readings, meetings, outings and parties all with the intention of making them feel valued as instructors and part of our wonderful community.  I felt that each meeting represented a step toward improved classroom teaching as well as confidence in the role they will play in our college’s future. To that end, here are some of the things we did together.


We started with a presentation by Monica Munger from Learning Skills revolving around behaviors in the classroom that might be beyond the experience and understanding of the instructor. We discussed the influence of “gadgets and gizmos” and how neuroscience informs us about out teaching. Together we discovered some very real issues a new instructor might face as well as where to go for guidance in these situations.  With Valjean Dale’s help from counseling, we learned about helping students with emotional and psychological problems that might interfere with their success.  We continued our discussion in October with a visit to the library and a presentation by Jim Mathews. The new faculty was duly impressed with what Chabot has to offer and found just finding the library a great help! We ended that session with a most excellent Halloween party, hosted by Language Arts and Social Science. Sean McFarland joined us in November to discuss Carnegie grants and his work with Tom DeWit on the state level. And we ended the first semester with a GIFTS panel, which I will discuss in more depth later.


We finally addressed the text we were given, What The Best College Teachers Do, by Ken Bain. I would not recommend this going forward. A very few found it truly helpful and we really didn’t have time to address any of the chapters thoroughly. I might put this on a suggested list or make it a gift again to use as they want. Our first Spring session was what I like to call a “chat and chill.” No real agenda – just an opportunity to talk to each other and discuss any particular issues they might be having. Talk about opening the flood gate! By this time in the semester, that’s what they really needed to do – TALK. Talk about tenure – talk about grades- talk about problem students- talk about great students – talk about the dreaded March 15th. It was time very well spent. In February, we had a visit from a publisher to introduce ebooks in the classroom. I followed this up with a presentation by Kathleen Kaser the following month. In addition, Dean Gary Carter did a great presentation on load configuration, WSCH, FTE, etc. It was much appreciated by the new faculty. April focused on campus wide committees and we were joined by Christy Warda from the Curriculum Committee and Ming Ho, former president of the Academic Senate. And finally, we wrapped up the semester with a GIFTS panel.


Every new faculty evaluation, without exception, addressed the GIFTS presentations and how they inspired and instructed us all. GIFTS – great ideas for teaching stuff – was not my original idea but something I adapted from the state and national conferences I attend. In the field of communication studies, GIFTS is an acronym for Great Ideas For Teaching Speech. I have been both the moderator and presenter on several of these panels and have learned so much from my colleagues across the country. In the Spring of 2010, I decided to see what would happen if I offered an opportunity for instructors, across all disciplines, to share a great teaching moment.  What better way to encourage great teaching than have great teachers present their best moments. My first challenge was to figure out how to get faculty involved. I realized if I asked, it wouldn’t have the same impact as if student’s suggested a particular faculty. So here’s what I did:

- I asked students in my classes to write down the names of instructors they thought went above and beyond the ordinary in their classroom. It was very informal – jot down their names on the yellow tablet and tell me what they teach - that’s it. Keeping it simple took pressure off the students. (Some instructors wanted to know what the student thought was great but I left that mystery up to them to solve). The students were very enthusiastic about nominating their teachers and many of the instructors on the list were nominated several times. Talk about validation!

- I then sent out an email, explaining the student input and inviting those “nominated” to present their best teaching idea/activity/moment to the new faculty. They were given 5-7 minutes.

- Most faculty were extremely honored to be nominated and responded positively to the invitation.
- During the last meeting of each semester, we met and enjoyed their presentations. It was, truly, magical. I was so impressed and proud to be a colleague of these great classroom teachers.

The new faculty were amazed at their talent and came away with great ideas to try in their own classrooms. Plus, they got to know colleagues in a way that is too often overlooked. They got to know them as passionate teachers. They were introduced to everything from ice breaking exercises to creative writing assignments; meditation to drum circles; classroom competitions to effective group assignments. It was amazing.

I would like to acknowledge the following Chabot instructors – truly among the best – who shared their talents with us.

Fall Semester:
Jason Ames, Veronica Martinez, Bruce Mayer, Sara Parker, Katie Hern, Jane Wolford, TJ Puckett, Stephanie Zappa, Zach Walsh, Diane Zuliani and Patricia Shannon.

Spring Semester:
Scott Hildreth, Mark West, Christy Warda, Homeira Foth, Eric Schultz,
Steve DePrato, Sean McFarland (Shorter meeting due to retirement celebration).

My hope is that someday Chabot will be in the position to hire new faculty again and will remember the value of this community to help our new teachers get off to a great start. More than one new faculty lamented the fact that we would not be meeting next year. When was last time you heard a faculty member say they were sorry they didn’t have to attend a meeting?

I’m sure my part in all this is quite evident. But for future reference, the coordinator’s duties should include the following:
  • Set a realistic calendar and try (hardest part) to accommodate all new faculty. I was thrilled that I had thirteen regular attendees. I met with those who had scheduling conflicts personally or via email and tried to keep them in the loop by sending agendas and handouts from the meetings.
  • Secure a meeting place and plan ahead for the type of meeting. For example, I needed a smart classroom for the e-book demonstration.
  • Provide a semester calendar at the beginning of each semester and agenda (both hard copy and electronic) for each meeting. Allow enough flexibility in the calendar for “chat” time. Eventually, the new faculty will tell you what they need more of and who they want to meet.
  • Secure your guests well in advance. I checked with everyone personally and followed up with an electronic invitation.
  • Bring good snacks!
  • In addition, I provided outside information via downloaded articles to inspire conversation. As I said earlier, the text was minimally helpful but I did read it and tied to bring some of the concepts into our conversations.
  • I tried to provide a safe place for open communication, especially during the second semester when so many of our new faculty were worried about their contract status. I helped them understand the tenure process and was also fully prepared to counsel them should their contract not be renewed.
  • I spent quite some time helping some with personal issues that were still directly related to the college.

Members - Fall 2010

Laura J. Alarcón
EOPS Counselor & Instructor

Laura J. Alarcón Laura holds a Master of Science in Counseling from San Francisco State University (SFSU) with an emphasis in college and career counseling. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology from UC Berkeley where she secured funding for her fieldwork in Guatemala and Venezuela through the McNair Scholars program and UC Berkeley's Haas Scholars program respectively. Laura taught high school and worked as an academic and career counselor at Merritt College before coming to Chabot. In recognition of her achievements, she received the prestigious Merage American Dream fellowship in 2004 and the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development’s Emerging Graduate Student Leader Award in 2009. Laura does competitive dancing in her spare time.


Nancy Cheung
Instructor, Dental Hygiene

Nancy has been an adjunct faculty on campus for 2 years in the dental hygiene department and is excited to be on campus full-time. She has been a dental hygienist and educator for over 15 years. Nancy enjoys being with family and friends.  She recently officiated her sister's wedding! Her hobbies include: walking, painting, crafts, and decorating.

Mireille Giovanola 
Instructor, Anthropology

Mireille and her husband came from Switzerland in 1976 to pursue their studies at UC Berkeley. They have grown children and numerous cats. Mireille enjoys reading, gardening, listening to music and is currently learning how to play the drums.

William Hanson
Instructor, Administration of Justice

William graduated from the UC Berkeley with a BA degree in Political Economy of Industrial Societies and holds a Juris Doctor degree from Columbia University. He is licensed to practice law in California and Colorado and has been a member of the law school faculty at Gonzaga University, University of Colorado, University of Denver, and John F. Kennedy University School of Law. He believes in the power of collaboration to transform our communities. One of William’s hobbies is researching family history.

Angela Hobbs
Instructor, ESL

Angela received her M.A. in TESOL from San Francisco State University, and has a B.A. in Business Administration and French from Hope College in Michigan. She has been an adjunct lecturer in ESL at Roosevelt University, University of Illinois-Chicago, and most recently at Harper College in Illinois. She is a loyal Chicago Cubs fan, but will trade summers at Wrigley Field for a Bay Area winter any day!

Lynn Klein
Instructor, Business

Lynn has over 22 years experience teaching college level business and computer courses. She is well known for her use of humor and music to facilitate the learning process. She served as Treasurer of a non-profit, Yoga Kids on Wheels, which provides yoga and vocational training to disabled children. Lynn lives in the Oakland Hills with her husband and three cats. She loves Broadway musicals and water slides.

Deonne Kunkel
Instructor, English

Deonne holds a MA in Literature from Mills College and a BS in Education from Brigham Young University. She enjoys backpacking, biking, swimming, writing, volunteering in her community, and building rockets with her twelve year old son. One of her scarier moments in life includes getting lost on an Alaskan mountain heavily populated by bears. She hopes to one day retire to a forest to complete a number of writing projects, including a mystery novel that’s been on hold since she began teaching.

Kristin Land
Instructor, English

Kristin has been a high school Puente English teacher for the bulk of her 10 years as an educator in Hayward. After graduating with a BA from UCLA, she spent several months in Oaxaca, Mexico before earning an MA in Education from UC Berkeley. Kristin loves to travel and hike. If the two can be done simultaneously, she is in heaven, especially if her life-partner and her extended family join her on the adventure.

Larry Leach
Instructor, Mass Communications

Larry Leach has worked as a Mass Communication and Journalism instructor at several Southern California community colleges since 2006. Larry also owns a media development company, which allows him to stay on top of changes and trends occurring in the media industry. He received a Masters Degree in Mass Communications and Journalism from California State University-Fresno in 2004 and a Bachelors Degree in Communication Studies from California State University - Fullerton in 2000.

Arturo Lopez Yanez
Instructor, Sign Language

Arturo has an M.A. in Deaf Studies from Gallaudet University in Washington D.C.  He has a B.A. in American Sign Language from CSU Fresno.  His interests include using technology in the classroom, curriculum development, and maintaining a department based on teamwork and communication.  Outside the classroom Arturo is involved in the Deaf community and enjoys attending workshops and conferences.

Christina Mendoza
Instructor, Sociology

Christina is from the Texas-Mexico border and enjoys going back to visit her family and eating Tex-Mex food! In her spare time she enjoys playing with her 3 year old son, traveling, reading and attempting different sewing projects.

Rick Morris
Instructor, Physical Education & Head Tennis Coach

Rick grew up in the Bay Area and completed his BS, MS, and Teaching Credential at Cal State Hayward. He has been at Chabot since 1991, starting out as an assistant coach for the men's tennis team, becoming the head coach for both men's and woman's teams 10 years ago. He has been awarded two National Intercollegiate Coach-of-the-Year Awards. Rick has been teaching full time at UC Berkeley for the previous 10 years.

Rebecca Plaza

Becky grew up in California’s central valley, in the town of Patterson. After graduating from UCLA she worked in TV production, before seeing the bright light of a career in education and counseling. She loves being at Chabot, hiking in the Sierra Nevada, looking for sea glass, and trying out for Jeopardy.

Mike Sherburne
Instructor, Automotive Technology

Born in Wisconsin, Mike has worked in the automotive industry for the past 35 years. As a teenager Mike got his start in automotive technology working at a gas station pumping gas and gradually worked himself into a mechanic's position and then went on to teaching. When he’s not at school enjoying teaching and his students, he’s at home with his family. He and his wife of 32 years have two children and a beautiful granddaughter named Danni Lorraine.

Jessica Symes
Instructor, Nursing

Jessica is married and enjoys spending time with her family especially her 2 nieces ages 3 and 6. Therefore, littlest pet shop, coloring, scrapbooking and Disney vacations are at the top of her list. She also enjoys traveling, spending time relaxing in Lake Tahoe, and other beautiful places on this earth. Most recently she has learned to play poker with her husband and their friends and enjoys taking her opponents chips. She is looking forward to a very busy school year and football weekends with her husband and friends.

Felicia Tripp

Felicia has received her masters in Counseling from San Francisco State. She is originally from Detroit, Michigan, but has lived in San Francisco for 11 years. In her heart, she is a dancer and poet and has begun to explore expressive arts therapy, dance, and spirituality.



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