FREEPORT — Highland Community College employees joined fellow colleagues on January 5, 2017, to honor individuals with this year’s Excellence Awards and Opel Award. The awards recognize employees for quality work, creativity, honesty, integrity, self-development, and excellence in their professional relationships.
A committee made up of Excellence Awards recipients from the previous two years, and the executive vice president, selected the winners in the following categories: full-time faculty, full-time administrative/professional staff, full-time classified staff, and part-time employee of any category. This year’s recipients were Claire Brinkmeier, Bill Buehler, Christie Lewis, and Tracy Mays. The annual Opel Award was presented to Juliet Moderow by the HCC Foundation.
Full-time Faculty: Tracy Mays is an English and German instructor at Highland. She exhibits mastery in her teaching and course material, including German, writing topics, from grammar to rhetoric, and research. She recently revived Highland’s Creative Writing course, taking on new genres like poetry and short stories. She restarted, and now leads, the HCC International Club. She accompanied the Highland choirs to Germany last summer and served as their translator. She also works well with new hires, providing teaching materials and techniques.
Classified Staff: Bill Buehler serves as Fine Arts Assistant. He has improved internal processes by updating the filing system, improving class schedule printing, and streamlining the student evaluation process. Bill has also been instrumental in the success of the Friends of the Fine Arts (FoFA). He has created processes to accept and track donations, update the organization’s brochure, and send solicitation letters. He also organizes the annual FoFA scholarship recognition ceremony.
Part-time Employee: Claire Brinkmeier serves as Training Coordinator for the Business Institute. She has been instrumental in conducting customized training contracts such as diversity and inclusion training for the Freeport Police Department and Freeport School District, and social media training for the Galena Area Chamber of Commerce. She also partnered with Elkay Manufacturing in Savanna to help with training and testing on the Highland Campus.
Administrative/Professional Staff: Christie Lewis is Coordinator, Staff Development and HRIS. Her responsibilities shift based on College priorities and state and federal regulations. She researches and determines the necessary processes and tools needed to comply with state and federal mandates. As chair of the Wellness Committee, she organizes a series of health and wellness programs each year. She enjoys added responsibilities and has a strong desire to continue to absorb knowledge and expertise related to the field of human resources.
Opel Award: The Highland Community College Foundation annually recognizes one Highland employee with the Opel Award, named for one of the Foundation’s founders, Don Opel. The award recognizes employees who serve and promote the College. This year the Foundation presented the award to biology instructor Juliet Moderow. Juliet has a passion for the environment. She is the advisor for the HCC Environmental Awareness Represented Through Highland (E.A.R.T.H.) Club and organizes Earth Day activities at Oakdale Nature Preserve. She serves as the education committee chair for the Northwest Illinois Audubon Society and teaches environmental programs to youth at the Freeport Public Library.
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