By Claudia Zequeira
Claudine Bentham, faculty director, Teaching/Learning Academy, remembers the time when, while in her second year of college, she almost dropped out. She had just had her first child and was trying to juggle motherhood with the academic rigors of school.
On top of all that, and partly as a result of being a first-generation college student (Claudine is the New York-born daughter of Haitian immigrants), she was nagged by the feeling she didn’t belong there.
“I was on the verge of dropping out,” said Claudine. “But I experienced support from one of my teachers who had faith in me. And it is my hope that I can do the same in terms of the work that I do as a director, so that instructors can have empathy and provide support for students who are like me and make an impact on people.”
As faculty director of the Teaching/Learning Academy (TLA), a role she assumed last year, Claudine and her TLA team have a direct impact on how teaching unfolds at Valencia College.
Among her primary functions is helping faculty going through the five-year tenure-track process navigate it successfully by providing them with support and guidance.
She also works closely with deans — a pivotal part of faculty support and development — and oversees a team of collegwide faculty members who help facilitate TLA courses and mentor instructors.
Courses offered by the academy are meant to support professors to improve their pedagogy, acclimate to the Essential Competencies of a Valencia Educator and produce an action research project meant to deepen student learning.
“My essential goal is to help them not just as educators, but as leaders. My goal is to be intentional in creating ways for our tenure-track faculty to develop leadership skills throughout the program using the lens of an equity-minded practitioner,” she said.
At Valencia, where she started in 2008 as a developmental reading adjunct instructor, Claudine is most proud of being part of the Teaching and Learning team in helping to design new equity-minded courses for the academy, which will be infused with the College’s next Strategic Impact Plan goals, all of which center on equity.
“Learning ways to be an equity-minded practitioner is work that I’m passioned about,” she said. “It’s also challenging because I have a lot to learn, and I know I will fumble along the way.”
She also mentioned she enjoyed being a faculty development faculty fellow at the Center for Teaching/Learning Innovation at the West Campus. Claudine is also proud of her work as a participant in the Continuous Assessment Responsive Engagement program (C.A.R.E.), an early alert system meant to identify struggling students, and of being a former LifeMap mentor.
Both experiences, she said “helped me tremendously in terms of my engagement with students, made me become more empathetic and aware of the needs of my students … and it’s what I based my doctoral dissertation on.”
Claudine mentioned she has chosen to stay at Valencia, in part, because of the many development opportunities it offers employees and the relationships she made over the years. In addition, she considers Valencia to be her home and family.
“There’s an amalgamation of things that I love here,” she said. “But a key thing is that they have accepted me for who I am. I am able to bring my real self to the work.”
In addition, she values the fact Valencia offers a caring environment for employees and students alike. By way of example, she mentioned her own daughter, who graduated from Valencia in 2017.
“It’s been a resounding thing with my students and then my daughter solidified it,” she said. “Students feel like Valencia cares … Valencia really cares about the individual, the teaching and also preparedness.”
Claudine was awarded tenure as a professor of reading in 2014. Prior to that, she worked in the field of education for more than 15 years in various capacities, including as an after school reading instructor at Thomas Giordano Middle School 45 in New York City, and as a middle school teacher at Horizon Middle School in Kissimmee.
She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from the College of New Rochelle, a Master’s in Education with a specialization in reading and literacy at Walden University and a doctoral degree in higher education and policy studies from the University of Central Florida.
In her free time, Claudine loves to run — she has run a full marathon and several half marathons — as well as sing in her church choir, where she is also studying to be a pastor.
She cherishes being a wife and a mother of four loving children, and she also enjoys spending time with her family.
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