Virginia Western Community College associate professor Steve Huff accepted the 2011 Chancellor's Award for Teaching Excellence at the Virginia Community College System Annual Meeting dinner on Wednesday in Charlottesville. Huff, the Communication Design program head, is the first Virginia W
estern faculty member to earn the annual award, which is the top teaching honor throughout the state’s 23-community college system.
VCCS Chancellor Dr. Glenn DuBois established the award, which includes a VCCS stole and a $5,000 check. Each of the VCCS college presidents may only submit one faculty member for the Chancellor’s Award each year, and the application process is extensive. In addition to demonstrating evidence of excellence to the awards committee through course documents, presentations and outcomes, an applicant must also show the support of colleagues and students. Huff submitted a video of past and present students’ unedited comments on his teaching.
“It is amazing to be recognized with an award such as this, especially with the amount of wonderful teaching colleagues I have at Virginia Western and throughout the VCCS,” Huff says. “But what really means the most is hearing that I’ve made a positive impact upon students. I aspire to help students gain the skills that will lead to careers doing what they love, and seeing that happen is the greatest reward.”
Huff pushes his students to develop extensive portfolios and helps them prepare for what they may encounter in a job interview. But he doesn’t just want them to get a foot in the door at a marketing agency or another place of business, he wants them to thrive. Huff’s teaching style is to incorporate aspects of collaborative work that students are likely to encounter in the workforce.
“What makes Steve such a fantastic teacher is that his lessons extend beyond the classroom,” said Dr. Robert Sandel, President of Virginia Western. “He’s not only concerned by whether they make an ‘A’ or not, he wants to make sure students can thrive in whatever career they choose. And he keeps up with his students to see the end result.”
Beyond his students at Virginia Western, Huff strives to affect people’s lives in different parts of the world too. Huff and his wife, Stacey, started a nonprofit organization called World Relief Now (WRN) in 2005 after witnessing acute poverty during their travels to Africa. Through the organization, Huff has provided everything from vitamins to coloring books and helped build schools for people in places like Senegal, Nepal and South Africa.
In the end that may be what endears Huff to students and colleagues the most, he teaches by example.