Tidewater Community College recognizes five faculty and staff members from across the college with annual special awards on Aug. 18.
Selected by their peers, the honorees will receive their awards at TCC’s 2022 Fall Convocation to be held at the college’s Chesapeake Campus.
Professor of the Year
Thomas Geary, Ph.D., is the Professor of the Year, chosen by the Faculty Senate. Geary, 40, is an English professor and has been teaching at the college since 2012.
“It’s such an honor to be recognized by my peers because so many of my colleagues have shaped me and helped me develop into the teacher that I am today,” Geary said. “It also shows that what I’m doing is working for students.”
In addition, Geary was recognized with the 2022 Outstanding Faculty Award by the State Council of Higher Education and Dominion Energy. He is one of 12 recipients out of 85 nominees recognized in Virginia for the award.
“I am humbled to receive such a prestigious award and be recognized alongside an exceptional group of faculty in our state,” Geary said. “Even more so, I am thrilled that TCC shares in this honor; our incredible administration, faculty and staff work so hard every day to guide our students to be successful in their academics and as contributors to our community. I’m grateful to work alongside everyone in fulfilling our mission.”
Geary regularly teaches composition, rhetoric, technical writing, developmental writing and humanities courses. He also serves as the editor of Inquiry, the peer-reviewed journal for faculty, staff and administrators at Virginia’s Community Colleges. He is a former elected representative on the Modern Language Association Delegate Assembly and an executive committee member of the Two-Year College English Association.
Since the return of face-to-face instruction, Geary has taught online, synchronous and asynchronous classes and maintained a blend to allow for a flexible classroom for students. Students are encouraged to attend in the format that suits them best. He also uses open educational resources, keeping education affordable by cutting out the cost of textbooks.
Geary allows students to revise their work without penalties and he gives flexible deadlines. “I’m creating a learning environment where compassion and empathy take center stage in my classes. This allows me to accommodate students and ensure their success, no matter the circumstances,” he said.
Geary added, “I really want students to be able to inquire in academic issues and engage in problems that affect the community. I want to have their voices contribute to the solutions in our community, state and nation.”
Geary is a member of the Faculty Professional Development Committee and serves as a search advocate for hiring committees. He is a former member of the Faculty Senate and former chair of the President’s Advisory and Planning Council.
Geary holds a Ph.D. and a master’s in English from the University of Maryland. He also has a bachelor’s in English from Christopher Newport University.
Geary married his wife, Meredith, during the COVID-19 pandemic via a virtual ceremony. The couple has a dog, Daisy, a chihuahua mix, and two cats, Monkey and Doodle. Geary can be seen around his Virginia Beach neighborhood walking Daisy for a least an hour a day. The couple enjoys spending time with their extended family who reside in cities throughout South Hampton Roads.
Faculty Special Achievement
Staci Forgey, Ph.D., professor of biology, was honored by the Faculty Senate with the Faculty Special Achievement award for her innovative teaching and dedication to student development.
Forgey, 38, worked on two special projects last year that contributed to her nomination. Working with faculty member Lynette Hauser, Forgey collected and analyzed a large set of data that compared the final grades in science courses for non-science majors. In the research, Forgey completed logistic regression to identify factors important for student success. Forgey wrote a presentation to share the findings and noted that environmental science courses led to higher success rates than biology courses due to the breadth of the topics presented. The research revealed disparities in success based on race, age and gender.
Forgey, a Virginia Beach resident, also presented on gender inclusivity in teaching biology at TCC’s 2022 Learning Institute. Forgey completed an extensive review of literature and resources to produce a thoughtful review, as well as a list of recommendations on how to be more inclusive when teaching science courses.
“I’m very honored to be recognized so early in my teaching career,” she said. “So many students endured difficult situations during the pandemic, and I saw that my classes gave them a place to belong.”
Forgey knows firsthand the value of community college, as she is a first-generation college student. Her mom followed her to college and earned a nursing degree two years after Forgey graduated with her bachelor’s degree. In addition, two of her sisters changed the course of their careers by attending community college.
“I enjoy teaching at TCC because we have students from so many diverse backgrounds. Community college is the first choice for those looking for a second chance,” she said. “We do the most good at TCC because we have students who really want to be here and are making big changes in their lives.”
Forgey holds a Ph.D. in community college leadership and a master’s in biology from Old Dominion University. She earned her bachelor’s in biology from Niagara University.
During the pandemic, Forgey jumped into college governance to stay connected with her peers. She served on the Program Prioritization Committee, the PACE (Progressive Academic and Career Experience) Assessment, the General Education Assessment, the Student Success Committee and the Steering Committee for the newly formed Center for Teaching Excellence.
Forgey enjoys gardening as well as kayaking and hiking with her family. An avid outdoor enthusiast, Forgey married her husband Robert outside at the Northwest River Park in Chesapeake. The couple has two sons, Bryson and Griffin.
Outstanding Adjunct Faculty
Jeffrey Acosta, recipient of the Outstanding Adjunct Faculty award, is a historian with a varied background that includes thirty-eight years of military service with the US Marine Corps. He completed three combat tours and two tours of duty as a field historian. He also spent eleven years as curator for the MacArthur Memorial and thirteen years as a defense analyst for General Dynamics.
“This award is really important to me because it’s recognition from my peers,” Acosta said. “I’m grateful to be recognized for my dedication to my students and for creating a positive learning environment both in and outside the college.”
Acosta, 67, enjoys helping students look at history through different contexts. He aims with each lesson to incorporate the rich diversity of the people and events of history. This includes lessons that cover both the tragedies and triumphs of the human race.
Acosta’s courses include writing assignments that require students to practice their critical reading and writing skills. “My students quickly learn that history at the college level is more than just rote memorization of dates, famous people and events,” Acosta said. “It is about history as a discipline that is connected in some way to all the courses they take at TCC and to their lives in a general sense.”
Acosta, a Virginia Beach resident, uses a variety of teaching tools, open educational resources, and books from the library to save on the costs of textbooks. He also offers flexible classes and students can come in-person or join via Zoom if they have to stay home to care for a family member.
Part of Acosta’s success as an instructor is that he is accessible to students who need extra help. He schedules at least one extra help session weekly via Zoom or in-person. He also reaches out to students who are not performing well and develops a plan to improve their performance.
Acosta is a member of the Faculty Senate and worked to develop the TCC Adjunct Faculty Growth and Evaluation Process with Dean Jenefer Snyder. He is the Faculty Senate representative with the TCC Academic Affairs Council and a member of the national board of trustees for the Filipino American National History Historical Society.
A proud TCC alum, Acosta noted that the courses he took at TCC in English, math and science prepared him for success as an artillery officer in the Marines and as a concept development and experimentation planner for General Dynamics.
Acosta holds a master’s and bachelor’s in history from Old Dominion University and liberal arts associate degree from TCC. Acosta is a graduate of the U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College. He also completed coursework at the U.S. Naval War College and National Defense University.
When he is not teaching, Acosta enjoys spending time with his wife of 40 years, Celeste, and their children and grandchildren. They spend their summers touring the country to learn more about history through actually visiting historical sites, national monuments and museums in the United States and Europe.
Classified Employee of the Year
Brad Hooker was recognized by the college’s Classified Association for his innovative leadership in overseeing TCC’s warehouse operations.
As warehouse supervisor for close to a decade, Hooker, 63, developed processes to keep the warehouse operating effectively and in support of the needs of the college community.
“Brad has brought accountability and expertise to the warehouse operations, seeing each day as his chance to contribute,” said Thomas Hutchins, director of material management and Hooker’s supervisor. “Brad was on-site every day during the pandemic shutdown and allowed our warehouse to provide uninterrupted service to the college.”
During his time at TCC, Hooker set up a system that tracks outgoing shipments and implemented load sheets and driver logs so that all items can be tracked while in transit. He organized the warehouse using a bin location process, making it easy to locate any requested item. Hooker also helped to implement Inventory Direct, the college’s electronic ordering tool for supplies.
“We are a support department and every day I do my part to make this the best and safest warehouse around. We take pride in keeping everything clean and safe,” he said.
Hooker, a Chesapeake resident, also oversees the surplus warehouse which is particularly vital when budgets are tight. “Brad answers inquiries about available items and arranges opportunities for staff to walk through to look at furniture and equipment that can be put back into use,” said Lynn Hundley, facilities project manager. “This saves resources to support the college’s mission and allows for funds to be used to purchase other items that are needed.”
Hooker has had a career dedicated to customer service, first as a trainer and manager for Farm Fresh and later as warehouse supervisor for Cavalier Telephone Co.
In his free time, Hooker teaches drums at Western Branch Music & Arts. His youngest student is six and the oldest is 68. Brad has been married for 40 years to his wife, Patricia Hooker.
“I’m very honored to receive this award and grateful for my job at TCC,” he said. “It’s rewarding to do my part to support the college and our students.”
Wage Employee of the Year
Alice Robinson is TCC’s Wage Employee of the Year. As the office assistant for the Arts and Humanities Pathway, Robinson greets students and ensures that their questions are answered promptly and accurately. “I’m overwhelmed by this honor and really can’t believe it. I’ve been in a group chat with my family all week and they are tickled pink,” she said.
Robinson, a Norfolk resident, has worked at TCC for 19 years and is an alum of TCC’s Administrative Support Technology program.
“Alice welcomes everyone with a smile and goes the extra mile to ensure students’ needs are met,” said Kerry Ragno, former pathway dean for Arts and Humanities. “She also works with faculty to ensure they complete administrative tasks that affect the student experience.”
This year, Robinson handled special projects including entering summer and fall classes in the system for registration and also preparing faculty reassign time contracts for signature. She also helped the pathway become more proficient in meeting add/drop deadlines and providing access to course syllabi for students with concerns.
A self-proclaimed people person, Robinson says that her favorite thing about the job is her interactions with students, faculty and coworkers. “Every day there are new challenges and people to meet. That’s the best part of my day,” she said.
Robinson earned a bachelor’s in hospitality and tourism management from Norfolk State University. She is the proud mother of six children and she has 20 grandchildren.