Tuesday, October 12, 2021
By Jennifer Keefe
It’s a little-known fact, but the East Campus Science department is home to a modern marvel of … math? Administrative Assistant Tonaysha Askew has the unique ability to quickly multiply two-digit numbers in her head, something she’s very proud of.
“I don’t advertise it, but when it happens, it spirals into people yelling numbers at me in shock and amazement while they type the numbers in their calculator,” she says.
Amazing others with her mathematical genius is just one “product” Tonaysha finds that makes her role at Valencia College really special. If you ask her what her job is all about, she’ll tell you she sees herself as a real helper at the College, “I think my job requires me to wear many hats. One of the most important hats I wear is probably that of a guide for when I’m helping faculty and students.”
For Tonaysha, every chance she gets to help someone is a teaching moment. She explains, “They usually come to me knowing what they want or need; they just need help getting it. As often as I can, I like to guide them to the resolution instead of doing it for them. That way, if the problem comes up again … they can solve it for themselves unassisted.”
In her time at the College, Tonaysha’s encountered a lot. She recalls that some of her favorite moments involve the students she meets as they move along their academic journeys.
“There have been many students I’ve seen from their first semester to their graduating semester,” she said. “I enjoy when they come to me their last semester excited to tell me about their next steps beyond Valencia.”
Tonaysha’s supervisor, East Campus Dean of Science Jennifer Snyder, calls her “the beating heart of the science department,” adding, “we wouldn’t run without her.”
Jennifer also really appreciates Tonaysha’s unending dedication to student success.
“Personally, I am grateful every day for the opportunity to work with her,” Jennifer shared. “She always has the students in mind and thoughtfully executes her job for their success.”
Born and raised in Orlando, Tonaysha started her Valencia career as a student assistant for the Science, Math, Social Science and Communications divisions back in 1999, when they all shared a suite on East Campus Building 4. A year later, she became the area’s part-time staff assistant and, in 2003, was hired into her current role. She explains why her tenure at the College is so special to her.
“When people reach out to me (especially those I don’t know) for help it’s because they respect my time and experience, I am proud to have earned that reputation,” she said.
Even with all of her experience, Tonaysha hasn’t forgotten what it’s like to be new at the College. She says, “I am a strong advocate for helping anyone stepping into a new role at the college. So, if there is something I can say or do to help them acclimate to Valencia, I will always do what I can to help.”
Opportunity and clarity are the two words that come to mind when Tonaysha ponders what Valencia means to the community. She recalls her own experience coming to the College as a student and earning her Associate in Arts degree here.
“I graduated high school having no idea what I wanted to do and not ready for a big university. Valencia allowed me to focus my goals and prepare for the big university.”
Tonaysha recently graduated from the University of Central Florida with a bachelor’s degree in general integrative studies with a focus in human behavior and letters and writing. Now, she has her sights set on a master’s degree in legal studies.
When Tonysha isn’t at work, she’s at home working on DIY projects or spending time with her three-year-old nephew and four-year-old niece. Perhaps she’s passing on her talent for multiplication?
Know of someone who embodies one of Valencia’s values (learning, people, diversity, access or integrity), who has been an employee for at least one year? Send the colleague’s name to us at The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu. He or she might be one of our featured colleagues, subject to supervisor’s approval.