Typically, instructors don’t like their classes to be interrupted as it causes an expected break of a lecture, class discussion or exam.
That’s why Cal State San Bernardino President Tomás D. Morales
expressed his apology for walking in unannounced accompanied with about 15 other visitors to lecturer Cynthia Cotter and the 30 students in her class on children’s literature on Friday morning.
“We’re going to involve you in a very special recognition,” Morales told the class. “I want to share with you that her colleagues and you have played a very significant role in awarding Cindy Cotter the CSUSB Outstanding Lecturer for this year.
To the applause of the students and visitors, Morales said, “This is just a wonderful, wonderful tradition here at CSUSB. We value good teaching, we value our entire professoriate, but our lecturers do a lot of heavy lifting here in the classroom.”
In being named the 2015-2016 Outstanding Lecturer, Cotter will receive a $1,000 faculty development grant, and be recognized at the College of Arts and Letters June Commencement and at the university’s end-of-the-year Faculty Recognition Luncheon, Morales said.
Cotter “has been one of the strongest and more versatile English instructors at CSUSB for over 20 years. She teaches courses that range from freshmen composition to the 400-level seminars, and each quarter, she averages over 100 students,” according to a letter to Morales from the Outstanding Lecturer Nominating Committee.
“Her SOTEs (Student Opinion of Teaching Effectiveness) are impressive and reflect her dedication to teaching. She is always available to her students and her rigor is focused on challenging the students to their very best,” according to the letter.
Cotter’s students praised their instructor for her teaching.
One student wrote: “The class was very interesting and enjoyable for me. I gained some insight about reading and writing poetry that I will carry with me in the future as a teacher and as a writer. I also enjoyed writing the poems and I know I will cherish them for life … but what I gained was not just limited to the course materials … Professor Cotter taught me that it was OK to dream and to think about life and the need to include beauty of thoughts in my daily life.”
Another student wrote: “Professor Cotter doesn’t just give us vocabulary, but challenges us to appreciate poetry and experience it. Classroom time was full of lively discussion about both technical aspects of poetry and its overall meaning. Professor Cotter loves poetry and she makes it impossible not to feel the same in her class.”
Along with her work in the classroom, Cotter also mentors graduate students, has served on thesis committees, regularly attends commencement ceremonies, and has always been an inspiration to her students.
“You know, the wonderful thing about Cal State San Bernardino is that all the faculty and staff really believe that it’s all about the students,” Morales said. “Her colleagues have noted not just her skills, but also her vision and philosophical approach as an instructor.”
Cotter, who has taught at Cal State San Bernardino for more than 20 years, is a CSUSB graduate with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in English, Morales said.
“Clearly, Cindy Cotter is the embodiment of the core values of CSUSB, to challenge, teach and inspire our students, and to enrich their educational experience by extension of their lives,” Morales said. “Cindy is truly a treasured member of our community.”
Among the classroom visitors to support and celebrate with Cotter, were two previous winners of the Outstanding Lecturer Award, mathematics instructor Joyce Ahlgren and psychology instructor Robert Cupp.
“As a lecturer, it’s hard sometimes because you don’t get some of the accolades and honors and dammit, we deserve it, so congratulations from the bottom of my heart,” said Ahlgren, who won the award in 2014.
Cupp, last year’s award recipient, said he shared a connection with Cotter.
“The connection we have is expository writing and for a lecturer that is a demanding class,” he said. “I teach it, too, and the SOTEs you have are remarkable. You should be very proud of that.”
After hearing all the accolades, Cotter said she was fortunate.
“I’m just so lucky to be working here with my students. It’s such an honor to share your lives,” Cotter said. “It’s like I always say, ‘The best thing is how much to thank you all very much for making this the best job ever.’”
As the president and visitors left the classroom, student Ericka Gomez said she wasn’t surprised that her instructor received the award.
“She’s really, really, really an amazing professor. She goes through everything in a way that makes you realize things you never realized before so not only is it engaging, but it’s enlightening,” Gomez said.
Set in the foothills of the beautiful San Bernardino Mountains, CSUSB is a preeminent center of intellectual and cultural activity in inland Southern California. Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2015-2016, CSUSB serves more than 20,000 students each year and graduates about 4,000 students annually.
For an electronic image of Cynthia Cotter and more information on Cal State San Bernardino, contact the university’s Office of Strategic Communication at (909) 537-5007 and visit news.csusb.edu.