Amina Khalifa El-Ashmawy - Acceptance Speech

2015 Outstanding Community Colleges Professor of the Year
Amina Khalifa El-Ashmawy
Professor of Chemistry
Collin College

Thank you, Amy. And thank you to our hosts for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

When I was a youngster in Egypt, my mother called me Mademoiselle Deroose ("Miss Lessons" or "Tutor"). I'm not sure if it was intentional, but this planted a seed. The spark that ignited my passion for teaching happened at Kilgore College in freshman general chemistry class. My instructor, Mrs. Anita Neeley, who has since retired, made the subject interesting, relatable and fun to learn.

Dozens of students cross the threshold of my classroom each semester. I can taste the excitement of the new term, despite how much some students may be dreading it. Each semester, I work to conquer student fears and negative perceptions while sparking their curiosity. Through the course of the semester, the real magic happens when my students' perceptions about chemistry slowly transform. When they can see how chemistry impacts everyday life and why chemistry is so important to society. Those transformations are precisely what drive me every day as I walk into the classroom.

I am often asked why I am at a community college and not somewhere else in higher education. My answer is, students. I greatly enjoy interacting with students and helping shape their future. Community college is where I believe I can maximize such interactions.  Collin College, where I work, is a remarkable community college that has phenomenal academic tradition and culture of innovation. I am excited that at Collin College I have the opportunity to conduct research. Whether in the classroom or conducting research, the focus is on student learning. And that is exciting.

I have a responsibility in shaping our country and the world's future. I inform, challenge, guide, mentor, push (sometimes shove), learn and inspire. My responsibility extends far beyond the classroom and teaching—it's about learning, the students' and mine. Learning to see how the immediate impacts tomorrow. In any given class, I may succeed or I may fail. But, overall, I work to make an impact. I suspect this is also true for my colleagues here today.

When I got the Monday morning call informing me that I had won this award, first I was speechless then I was so overwhelmed that I had a hard time breathing. It took me a good part of a week for it to start sinking in. This award signals to me that I am doing something right. I would like to thank the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and CASE for advocating for our college students worldwide and the professors who love teaching them. I am humbled and honored to be selected as the 2015 Outstanding Community Colleges Professor of the Year. A sincere THANK YOU!  And, a heartfelt CONGRATULATIONS to all my colleagues.