I definitely may have yelled that when Dean Schersten called me up on the stage during this years Honor's Convocation to receive the Eileen K. Rice Award for Outstanding Teaching at Siena Heights University. I don't always take surprises well. For those not familiar with the award or with SHU, here is a small statement about the selection process:
Since Siena Heights University is primarily a teaching institution, it is appropriate that the learning community honor outstanding teaching by recognizing excellence within its faculty. The process for surfacing and celebrating outstanding teaching involves all currently enrolled students and current employees in a nomination process. After committee consensus, the current exemplar of outstanding teaching will be honored at the Siena Heights University Honor's Convocation April 29th 2016.
To say that I am honored somehow doesn't do justice to what I am really feeling. As someone who TRULY believes in the mission of teaching, this award serves to feed my motivation and drive to make myself even more effective and dedicated in the classroom. My kittens (which is what I lovingly call my students) are the reason I do what I do. They empower me and inspire me in ways that I cannot even begin to explain. I do this for them, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
After a beautiful speech from Dean Schersten he offered me the microphone. In my nervousness I mentioned how much I love cats, because, I mean...what else do you say when on stage in front of hundreds of people? It got a few chuckles and of course, my kittens understood the joke. But after winning an award dedicated to outstanding teaching, I wanted to learn more about the woman for whom it is named.
Who is Sr. Eileen K. Rice?
I did some digging, and found an old back issue of Reflections Magazine, the alumni publication from Siena Heights University. There is a great article about Sister Eileen and her legacy of teaching at Siena.
After speaking with a few people who knew and worked with Sister Eileen, I also discovered some pretty remarkable similarities. Like me, Sister Eileen K. Rice LOVED cats. I mean, she was a cat lady! She rescued and fostered feral and stray cats just like I do. In fact, if you would like to learn more about my feral cat rescue efforts, please check out my sister page Kimchi Zerbe. So to recap, Sister Eileen was hardcore nun who loved to teach AND loved cats? I like to believe she and I would have been friends.
As a part of the honor of receiving this award, I will be asked to give a speech at Fall Convocation next year. I am so excited to address the incoming freshmen class, and I kid you not, my speech will definitely include a LOT of cat references. I promise it'll be the cat's pajamas (see what I did there?).
Currently on cloud nine.