March 21, 2014

Biology instructor Jason Fitzgerald has been selected by a vote of his peers as the Loren P. and Velma Dallas Outstanding Teacher of the Year at Southeastern Illinois College for 2013-14.

Criteria for the award include at least three years of full-time employment; participation above and beyond classroom assignments; competence in one’s field or discipline; continuing one’s education and participating in professional development activities; rapport with students; personal commitment to higher education and the transfer of knowledge to students; upholding and encouraging ethical behavior of self and students; and giving freely to prepare students for their chosen careers

Fitzgerald has a long-time affiliation with SIC. He was born in Harrisburg and spent the first few years of his own education there before moving to Carrier Mills with his family to spend the remainder of his childhood and adolescent years.

“Growing up I made several trips to SIC where I competed in JETS competitions and performed in Honors Band performances,” Fitzgerald said. “My mother attended SIC as did my father and brother.  I had a history with SIC; my family had a history with SIC.”

Fitzgerald continued his undergraduate education at Colorado State University, where a love for the entirety of the college experience flourished, leading him to change course from becoming a veterinarian, to the plan of lifelong academia. His full-time instructor status has not stopped him from continuing his studies, either, as he is currently pursuing a Master’s in Biotechnology from Johns Hopkins University.

After graduating from Colorado State, Fitzgerald first came to SIC as an adjunct instructor for the Summer 2001 semester, then was hired for the 2001-2002 school year on a temporary, one-year basis.

“I loved teaching so much during that first summer that I made it my goal to teach all of my courses so well during my temporary stay that the folks of SIC would not want to see me leave.  And that I did, not just because it meant that I got to keep my dream job, but because I couldn’t help but put everything that I had into my classes,” said Fitzgerald. “My passion for science and the thrill of being able to share my knowledge with others fueled a fire that was deep within me, one that could not be contained.  Now, nearly thirteen years later, that fire rages on brighter than ever and it is still fueled by my love of science and by my desire to share my knowledge with my students.  I want them to not only learn the material that I present in my classes, so that they can be successful in their endeavors outside of SIC, but I also want their college experience to mold them, and shape them and help them become the person that they want to become in life – just as my college experience had done for me.”

Dr. Jonah Rice, SIC’s president, said, “Jason has been a long-time valued biology instructor as well as division chair of the math and science division.  He is also a sponsor of the Math & Science Club and participates in many extra-curricular activities.  We commend Jason on all the good work he does.”

“Receiving the Outstanding Faculty Member award is a heartwarming and emotional honor for me,” said Fitzgerald. “It reminds me that all that I do for my students and for the college does not go unnoticed.  I have much respect and admiration for the faculty of SIC, and it is very humbling to know that that think enough of me, and respect what I do enough to nominate me for this achievement.  Although my students are the driving force behind my passion for teaching, being surrounded my so many wonderful faculty members inspires me to continue to become a better instructor so that I can further strengthen the chain that is the outstanding faculty of SIC.” 

The selection of Fitzgerald as SIC’s outstanding faculty member for 2013-14 also makes him eligible for the 2014 Illinois Community College Trustees Association (ICCTA) Outstanding Faculty Member Award.

Lorna Dallas-Brown, who lives in New York and England, and the late Ellen Wiggins, daughters of the late Loren P. and Velma Dallas of Carrier Mills, established the Loren and Velma Dallas Outstanding Teacher Award in honor of their parents in 1996.  Their father, a founding member of the Southeastern Illinois College Board, was passionate about education.  Loren and Velma Dallas gave tirelessly to young people and wanted to provide opportunities for higher education in southern Illinois.  Each year the Dallas endowment through the SIC Foundation awards $500 to the Outstanding Teacher of the Year.