14 November 2012


Posted by Callan Bentley

Last night in Richmond, Virginia, I was honored to be awarded the Virginia Community College System’s highest honor: the 2012 Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence. Here’s VCCS Chancellor Glenn DuBois handing me the prize at the annual VCCS board meeting:

Photo by Clement Britt, VCCS

The purpose of the Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence (CATE) is to recognize excellence in teaching in Virginia’s community colleges. It is awarded annually to one teaching faculty member in the VCCS who “distinctly represents the teaching excellence found at VCCS colleges.” The award provides the recipient with a VCCS stole and $5,000. Chancellor DuBois noted my Presidential Sabbatical to develop the MAGIC project for virtual field trips, and my outreach efforts following the Mineral earthquake last year, as well as my enthusiastic students proclaiming me as “enthusiastic.” His comments were so laudatory as to make me embarrassed. I’m just doing my job – a job I love – and I know I have colleagues who are every bit as worthy of CATE recognition.

I was encouraged to give a few remarks to the assembled dignitaries, which included the presidents of most of the VCCS colleges, and the heads of their educational foundations, and a good number of their respective board members. I donned my stole, and took the podium:

Photo by Clement Britt, VCCS

I let them know how humbled I was to get this award after only 7 years in the VCCS system, and that I would endeavor to make the rest of my career worthy of the honor. I noted Virginia’s exemplary diversity of geology, the strong support I’ve received from both the VCCS and Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), and the extraordinary avenues of higher education that the Commonwealth offers. Memories of my own professors inspire me every day. I concluded by noting the recent birth of my son (that got a nice round of applause) and how I was confident of his future learning in our fine state.

It was a long drive down to Richmond and back to be present for this ceremony, but I’m really pleased to have been able to do it.

As it turns out, this professional honor coincides with a big change on the home front. Lily’s maternity leave ended yesterday, too, and today is her first day back to work after Baxter joined us. I’m now in the role of primary daycare provider – a blessing to be able to do that, considering that my sabbatical provides me unstructured time at home, where I can work on my GigaPan project and my textbook project in between warming up bottles and changing diapers. For at least the remainder of my sabbatical year, I’ll be Daddy Daycare, and therefore fortunate enough to spend quality time with my son every day.

It’s pretty great. He’s now 7 weeks old, and growing steadily. He gives every sign of having a wonderful personality, with minimal fussing and plenty of smiles. It’s strange to have Lily gone this morning – we really treasured our constant time together as a family over the past month and a half. We were also grateful for a 2-week visit from Lily’s mom, who helped out immeasurably. I’m not sure how single parents manage, given all the work that needs to be done to keep an infant healthy and happy. Single parents of the world, my hat’s off to you! For that matter, I’m sure this whole arrangement would be a lot tougher if I had to be reporting in to campus every day – and I’m doubly grateful for my sabbatical time. The flexibility of my schedule makes this all so much easier.

So, life is good. In other news, the leaves are all off the trees on Massanutten Mountain, and we can see out through the thinned forest to the ridge line of Green Mountain, across the Fort Valley to our west. It’s particularly scenic in the morning, when the sun crests Massanutten and bathes Green Mountain in an Appalachian sort of “alpenglow.” Meanwhile, winter birds are gathering at the feeders, the deer have grown gray-colored winter coats, and we’ve been stoking up the wood stove in the evenings.

So that’s what’s been going on around here. Hope you’re all well.