Northeastern Junior College’s newest graduates honored three outstanding faculty members who’ve had a great impact on their lives during last week’s commencement ceremony. The Joel E. Mack Award was presented to Amanda Kerker, Brenda Zink and Mike Anderson.
Presenting the awards were the 2020-21 Associated Student Government officers, Garrett Cockroft, president; Sydney Crites, first vice president; and Fallon Goemmer, second vice president.
Started in 1983, the Joel E. Mack Award honors the memory of Joel Evan Mack, a former NJC student. Originally from Lyons, Mack was returning back to Sterling after a weekend off campus when he stopped on Interstate 76 to help two young men who appeared to be having car trouble. They murdered him in what can only be described as a senseless act of violence.
Because Mack spoke highly of his instructors at NJC, his family, in cooperation with the ASG, began giving this annual award to recognize outstanding teachers.
The award is chosen by the students. All full-time instructors are eligible. Once an instructor receives the award they are not eligible to receive the award again for three years.
Amanda Kerker, a business instructor, was selected from the business and liberal arts departments.
“She is well known and loved by students for her positivity and classroom engagement,” Cockroft said, noting that she always relates class material to funny and serious notes from her own life. “She always finds a way to relate to her class and make their learning experience more memorable.”
He went on to share that not only is she helpful in the classroom, she also devotes many of her hours outside of class to help students achieve their academic goals and is a very helpful advisor.
Brenda Zink, chair of the science, technology, engineering and math department, was selected as the winner from the science and math, human performance, sports and nursing departments.
“Her courses are popular because of her humor, knowledge and love for her students. She goes the extra mile to help students fully understand the content she is teaching and has genuine concern for her students,” Crites said. “Hosting outside study sessions, battling through online teaching and engaging her students in the classroom are all reasons why she is highly deserving of this award.”
In addition to teaching, as a department chair, she serves as the voice for students on numerous committees on campus.
Mike Anderson, chair of the agriculture department, was selected from the agricultural, cosmetology, transportation and energy departments. He was described as kind, knowledgeable and incredibly supportive of the ag department. His passion for agriculture can also be found outside of the classroom on his own farming operation.
“I was in this instructor’s class when all the craziness of COVID happened. The first couple of months we had very engaging discussions about food and how other countries worked. I think all of us had a greater respect for the availability of food in the United States after this course,” Goemmer said. “With excitement, our instructor led us to critical thinking strategies for making the world as a whole a better place.”
Even when COVID-19 forced all instruction to move to an online format, students were still engaged in exciting topics for research papers and looking at world events as a whole.
Goemmer went on to talk about how Anderson’s door is always open, with students often filtering in and out, anxious to get his life advice.
“It’s very obvious he is here because he genuinely cares for all of the students, their goals, their life stories and their wellbeing,” she said.
When not teaching and advising students, he serves on many committees on campus.