The 2021 Innovation of the Year Goes to …

Left to right: Amanda Saxman, Joel Berman and Richard Weinsier. Not pictured: Steve Francis

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Congratulations to Amanda Saxman, professor, mathematics; Joel Berman, professor, mathematics; Steve Francis, professor, mathematics; and Richard Weinsier, instructional lab supervisor, whose innovation, A Free Open Educational Resource (OER) Based Intermediate Algebra Course MAT 1033C, has been selected for Valencia College’s Innovation of the Year Award winner.

The creation of the OER Intermediate Algebra course began in fall 2018.

The Openstax textbook and IMathAS platform were chosen as the best free resources for this course creation. Openstax textbook exercises were coded into IMathAS, videos were created and selected to match and the Canvas course layout was built to integrate it all.

The course was piloted with 12 classes in spring 2019, and two more instructors joined the pilot in summer 2019. In fall 2019, many more faculty began using these materials on East Campus, and a course materials committee was called to review the textbook/course material options for Intermediate Algebra. The committee voted to use the OER Intermediate Algebra course created by the team as one of the two main options for East and Winter Park Campuses starting in summer 2020. Now the materials are being shared collegewide for consideration. The course is also slated to be ROC-reviewed in the near future.

The course began as a discussion between math faculty members who wished to provide a no-cost alternative to students taking one of the department’s largest course offerings without compromising quality. The course was created with the intention that would be shared with as many faculty and across as many campuses as possible. The hope was to also provide a template for other disciplines and colleges to use as they consider creating OER course templates. Because of this, the team members responsible for realizing this OER Intermediate Algebra course are constantly responding to the needs of students and faculty, providing training when needed, and adapting and updating the course materials to improve the experience.

No one could have predicted that we would go fully online partway through spring 2020 and not come back for more than a year. But those faculty members who have been using these materials have been complementary and thankful that their students are not experiencing the issues with access codes and delayed textbooks that other colleagues have dealt with.

More and more faculty are interested in OER, in general, and in using the OER Intermediate Algebra course, in particular. The innovative OER course saves Valencia’s students valuable time and money and allows them to start each term with the tools they need to succeed, a challenge that has only grown during COVID-19. The OER course improves Valencia’s ability to serve our students and the community with high quality, no-cost materials.

The Innovation of the Year Award by the League for Innovation in the Community College highlights outstanding innovations in community college education through its Innovation of the Year competition. The program is designed to recognize faculty, staff and administrators at member colleges who have created and implemented innovative programs, practices, partnerships, policies and activities that improve the institution’s ability to serve students and the community.

Winners, chosen internally by each college, will receive an honorary “Innovation of the Year” certificate from the League and have the opportunity to present their winning innovations at the 2022 Innovations Conference. One winner or winning team will be accepted for each college or district.

Feel free to congratulate the winners below.

The Place for Plastics: Bags, Wraps and Writing Instruments

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

A Message from Carrie Black, Director, Energy Conservation and Sustainability 

In 2015, a study found that from 192 coastal countries about 8 million metric tons of plastic waste ended up in the ocean annually. Put another way by lead author Dr. Jenna Jambeck, “It’s five bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline in the world.”

Fast forward to last year and now a study by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that by 2040, 29 million metric tons of plastic will end up in the ocean. For perspective, that’s now 18 bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline in the world. Winter skiing vacations just got a lot more attractive.

We’ll talk about widespread plastic recycling next week in The Juice and The Grove. This week, as part of our Earth Month series, let’s talk plastic bags, wraps and plastic writing instruments.


Plastic Bags and Wraps — What’s Recyclable and Where Does it Go?

Plastic bags and plastic wrap shouldn’t go in residential curb-side recycling carts. That’s right — this means that you need to dump your contents into the cart itself and not keep it in the plastic bag used to collect it.

If plastic bags and wraps can’t go in the recycling cart taken to the curb, are they recyclable? Yes, they are recyclable, but only by taking them back to stores or drop-off locations that specifically accept them. This goes for those white and blue plastic Amazon mailing envelopes, too — just remember to remove the paper mailing sticker with your address first.

To find a plastic bag and wrap drop-off location, click here.

To read about the types of plastic bags and wraps that can be recycled, click here.     


Plastic Writing Instrument Recycling

Once we’re back on-campus, when your plastic highlighters, dry erase markers, plastic pens and other plastic writing instruments dry or run out, recycle them in one of our plastic writing instrument containers. And as a bonus, you can recycle used alkaline batteries in the containers too.

These containers are on the side of our recycling and landfill containers throughout the College, except at the Downtown Campus. There’s one container per floor, per building, in high-traffic areas and main entrances. These specific bins also have arrows on top pointing to the bins.

Employment Corner

As a Valencia College employee, did you know that you have access to job postings that are only open to internal candidates? These opportunities are just open to experienced Valencia employees like you and are not posted on our external jobs website.

Position: Support Specialist II (Part-time) (2 Openings)
Location: Lake Nona Campus
Closing Date: Tuesday, April 20, 2021

To view all job postings and obtain the full job description, location and salary for the positions above, as well as apply, log into our new employment portal.

To access internal job postings:

  • Navigate to our new Employment Portal.
  • Click on the Login tab.
  • Click on the Search Internal Jobs tab. A new window will open.
  • Use the filters provided to search for positions, view postings, and apply for a job.

To view jobs posted for external applications, click here.

If you have questions during the application process, contact or 407-299-5000, extension HR4U.

In addition to viewing The Grove for current job postings, we also encourage you to follow Valencia’s recruitment-oriented social media accounts. These accounts feature information about Valencia as an employer and promote current job openings. Below are links to Valencia’s three recruitment-oriented social media pages:

LinkedIn (@ValenciaCollege)
Facebook (@ValenciaCollegeJobs)
Twitter (@ValenciaJobs)

As current employees, we also encourage you to use these social media sites to share your stories about employment at Valencia. And remember, use the hashtag, #OurValencia, when sharing your stories.

Now Hiring for Full-time Mathematics Teaching Opportunity

Friday, April 9, 2021

A Message from Kathleen Plinske, President, Osceola, Lake Nona and Poinciana Campuses

If you or someone you know is looking for a full-time teaching opportunity, Valencia College is now hiring individuals to serve in the role of professor and extension specialist, mathematics. This is a special opportunity to increase college-readiness among area high school students and build pathways into higher education.

In this position, faculty members will assist in the implementation of a unique, educational partnership between the School District of Osceola County and Valencia College as full-time, annually appointed professors. Selected candidates will teach mathematics for college readiness and college-level mathematics at a high school in Osceola County, as well as college-level mathematics courses at Valencia’s Osceola, Lake Nona and Poinciana Campuses. Read about the experiences of colleagues in this role.

To learn more about this position and to apply, click here.

This position will close on Wednesday, May 5, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. 

If you have any questions, please contact Organizational Development and Human Resources Team at 407-299-5000, extension (8033) or email

We Still Need Volunteers for Grad Finale!

Friday, April 9, 2021

A Message from Kathleen Plinske, President, Osceola, Lake Nona and Poinciana Campuses

Thank you to those who have volunteered to assist with the Grad Finale celebration that will be held on Osceola Campus next week. We still have a need for volunteers, so if you are interested in helping our graduates celebrate, please inform your supervisor of your interest and email Senior Executive Assistant Maritza Goodman. In your email to Maritza, include the name of your supervisor and the date(s) and time(s) of your availability during the following shifts:

Thursday, April 15: 8:30 a.m.- 12:30 p.m., 12 – 3:30 p.m., 3 -7 p.m.

Friday, April 16: 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., 12 – 3:30 p.m., 3 – 7 p.m.

Saturday, April 17: 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., 12.- 3:30 p.m., 3 – 7 p.m.

As we get closer to the event, volunteers will receive additional information. If you have any questions, please contact Interim Executive Dean Melissa Pedone.

Edna Jones Miller Named Orlando Business Journal 40 Under 40 Honoree

Thursday, April 8, 2021

A Message from Terri Graham, Interim President, West and Downtown Campuses

Congratulations to Edna Jones Miller, dean of students at the Downtown Campus, for being named one of the Orlando Business Journal’s (OBJ) 40 Under 40 honorees. Each year the OBJ recognizes 40 promising Central Florida business executives and professionals under the age of 40.

Edna was honored for being “a stellar scholar/practitioner who has committed her entire career to student success. She is an extremely driven and highly motivated higher education professional. From a college instructor and administrator to a published author in a peer-reviewed journal, she continuously strives to help students to achieve their highest potential. While small in number, she and her team are extremely dedicated to significant outcomes like campus growth, student retention and a robust campus culture.”

To view all honorees, visit the OBJ website. You may congratulate Edna in the comments below.

You’re Invited to Virtual Archaeology Day

Thursday, April 8, 2021

A Message from Terri Graham, Interim President, West and Downtown Campuses

Date: Tuesday, April 20, 2021
Time: 2 – 3:30 p.m.
Location: Zoom

Save the date, because Virtual Archeology Day is right around the corner.

A panel of archeologists from across the country will talk to students about their specific field of research and career, as well as their relevance. Participants will also learn about archaeology and what the work of an archaeologist entaiils.

“Archaeologists in particular search for patterns to understand why cultural events occurred while also looking to predict how cultures will change, including our own, to plan for a better future,” said Carmen Laguer Diaz, part-time faculty, anthropology, who helped organize the event and is also co-hosting it.

The event will be hosted by Carmen, as well as Emily “Emma” Dietrich, outreach coordinator for the Florida Archeology Network. Other panelists include Edward Jolie, assistant professor with Mercyhurst University; Edward Gonzalez-Tennant, a UCF lecturer and principal investigator with Digital Heritage Interactive, LLC; Chuck Meide, director of the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP); Uzi Baram, professor and director of the New College Public Archaeology Lab; Sarah Herr, president of Desert Archaeology, Inc.; and Joshua Torres, acting program lead for archaeology at the National Park Service.

Valencia employees, students and anyone interested in the subject are encouraged to attend. A flyer for the event can be viewed here.

Students in Chef Lucy Martin’s Class Display Stellar Work

Thursday, April 8, 2021

A Message from Terri Graham, Interim President, West and Downtown Campuses

Recently, students in our Individual and Production Pastries class, an advanced course within the baking and pastry program, made a highly skillful display of culinary artistry, courtesy of their instructor, Lucy Martin, professor, culinary management.

“I think it speaks to the commitment we have to our industry,” said Chef Lucy, as she is known at the College and at the Downtown Campus, where she teaches. “As chefs we have a tremendous respect for our kitchens and a loyal dedication to ‘making it happen!’ This is something we also teach our students, all the while emphasizing not only food safety, but our own safety given the current situation.”

Every term, Chef Lucy, who has taught for more than 20 years and also owns a wedding cake company — Sofelle Cake Artistry — has her students set up a buffet of goodies to teach them what goes into the production of large-scale events. Students also produce an international desserts buffet during the course of the class. This teaches the students how to design, execute and plan for production.

Items were made in the kitchen lab located on the fourth floor of the Walt Disney World Center for Culinary Arts and Hospitality at UnionWest. While the event was not open to the public, other chef instructors as well as the program’s dean were invited to view the students’ work.

“I’m amazed by the professional skills our students displayed with this showcase at their mid-term,” said Alex Erdmann, dean, School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts. “It speaks to the excellence of our school, professors and students, and rivals any baking/pastry program in the world.”

Lucy, who has been a pastry chef for over two decades and began teaching at Valencia in 2013, said she always feels exceedingly proud to see her students produce quality work.

“It absolutely delights me to see how the buffets come together and the look in their eyes when they see how all the elements join to make it such a beautiful and delicious pastry work of art,” she said.

Virtual Children’s Reading Festival Provides Service-learning Experience for Education Students

Thursday, April 8, 2021

A Message from Terri Graham, Interim President, West and Downtown Campuses

“Can someone tell me one thing they like about themselves?” asked Professor of Education Paula DaSilva as author Marissa Jay White-Quarles read portions of her book “I Love Your Skin” to a group of children.

“One thing I like about myself is my skin color,” said Zainabe, an elementary age student. “My hair is beautiful.”

As the conversation unfolded, other children raised their hands, eager to answer. Although the dialogue followed the pattern of traditional reading circles; there was not much that was traditional about the gathering, which took place via Zoom, one of many activities held between Tuesday, March 30 and Friday, April 2, 2021, during Valencia’s first Virtual Children’s Reading Festival.

Content for the event, attended by 225 participants, was developed by Valencia College education students registered in EDF 2005 Introduction to the Teaching Profession, who created and implemented multiple book-based, hands-on activities in order to fulfill their required 15 hours of service learning for the class.

To prepare for their 30-minute sessions — a total of 21 were created — students met as a group over the course of six weeks to discuss children’s literature, how to use technology and Zoom for meaningful engagement, and to develop an activity plan for their individual sessions, said Paula, a key event organizer. Students also had the chance to do a couple of practice runs prior to the festival.

“In addition to allowing students who facilitated sessions to complete the required 15 hours of service learning, this also enabled them to connect theories regarding technology to its actual implementation,” explained Paula.

“While we had hosted a children’s festival on West Campus in the past, this was the first time we did a virtual festival focused on reading. Based on this experience, I would love to host a similar event next year with sessions offered at all of our different campuses as well as online as a way to make the sessions more accessible to our larger Valencia community.”

A sample of a student activity facilitated by EDF 2005 student Priscila Hernandez, titled “Sesame Street’s Counting All Around.”

Besides enriching lives, Valencia’s education students also walked away feeling accomplished and more secure in their ability to perform their craft.

Marianne Hernandez, a student presenter and festival participant, said the event gave her a chance to “have a real experience with students and what it’s like to develop and facilitate a lesson. For me, it gave me an insight to what it’s like to teach during a pandemic; how to use Zoom to engage students while being on a screen.”

Butterfly Dreams Party character performers also read books while dressed in costume and answered children’s questions regarding the stories read, as did professional local actors and authors who donated their time and talent to the event.

Butterfly Dreams Party performer reads “Wonder Woman 5-Minute Stories.”

Paula said the festival would not have been possible without teamwork, which she referred to as a cornerstone of the College. In particular, she praised the efforts of Linda Shrieves, director, public relations; Craig Blazejewski, director, interactive marketing; Jeff Danser, web/portal developer; and McKenzie Lakey, public relations coordinator, who helped with planning and marketing the event, including setting up the website and providing guidance on social media posts.

Also, Keith Hill, director, campus technology services; and Steve Rukstalis, technical support specialist, provided tech support before and during the event by training the session hosts on all things Zoom-related and being on-call during the event.

In addition, she praised Susan Dunn, dean, behavioral and social sciences, for supporting the project and helping with logistics, as well as session hosts Ellen Costello, manager, teacher preparation, Educator Prep Institute; Rhonda Atkinson, professor, education; Jane Maguire, professor, education; Laurie Staiger, coordinator, program advisor; Lindsay Regruit, assistant director, Horizon Scholars; and Jefferson Crutchfield, international technical support specialist. And student Bethany Castillo was key to lining up talent, having personally reached out to 95% of the artists and authors who participated.

Jerry Reed Presents on Bringing Art and Programming Together to Engage Students

Thursday, April 8, 2021

A Message from Terri Graham, Interim President, West and Downtown Campuses

Jerry Reed knows how to capture his students’ interests: through an interesting marriage of programming and art.

“I have taken an increasingly ‘artistic’ approach in most of my classes over the last few years,” said Jerry, professor, computer programming and analysis. “I don’t claim to be any sort of artist, but I have always found that students liked coding programs with graphical output and found them interesting and engaging.”

Jerry recently had an opportunity to describe his teaching methods as well as showcase his students’ work during a presentation he shared recently at the Virtual Innovations Conference hosted by the League for Innovation in the Community College. To view Jerry’s presentation, click here.

“The approach that I describe has the students in my classes collaborating asynchronously on coding ‘crowd-sourced’ graphic software,” Jerry explained.

“In these projects, online students program a graphic design that they share with other students via Canvas discussions, and all students then code a composite design of their own choosing, composed of graphical code ‘blocks’ posted by other students.”

Jerry added that incorporating visuals into his coding lessons has resulted in better engaged students and reduced incentives to “copy and paste” code. The approach incorporates a concept known as generative art into teaching.

Generative art refers to art that in whole or in part has been created with the use of an autonomous system (i.e. something created by machine rather than by a human).

A sample of Jerry’s students’ programming work, which makes use of visualizations, can be seen above.

The Innovations Conference, now in its 23rd year, is the foremost convening for professionals dedicated to improving and enhancing teaching and learning, leadership and management, and the community college experience.

The event also provides a forum for collaboration among academic experts and thought leaders, while granting participants exclusive access to the most inventive and inspirational community college programs from around the world.

Jerry has also presented on this topic during Valencia’s Learning Day. In addition, he has had the opportunity to present at other events hosted by the League, such as its STEMtech conference.

He said he finds these gatherings helpful and conducive to better teaching.

“I usually find it a good spot to find out what leading community colleges are doing recently,” he said.