Carolyn Szatkowski honors college professor

Student’s persistence leads to high honor for PVCC faculty


PVCC Student Carolyn Szatkowski, English Faculty Dr. Roma-Deeley, Dr. Counseling Faculty Marianne Roccaforte and PVCC President Dr. Dale gather at a reception in Buxton Library honoring Roma-Deeley as the 2012 Community College Professor of the Year.

PVCC Student Carolyn Szatkowski, English Faculty Dr. Roma-Deeley, Dr. Counseling Faculty Marianne Roccaforte and PVCC President Dr. Dale gather at a reception in Buxton Library honoring Roma-Deeley as the 2012 Community College Professor of the Year.

Retired marketer and current Paradise Valley Community College student, Carolyn Szatkowski can linger in her comfortable bathrobe and white terry-soft slippers all morning if it suits her. Mostly though, over a mug of coffee , Szatkowski enjoys the peaceful, unrushed day’s beginning by reading “USA Today” and the “Arizona Republic.”

Two years ago, on one of these leisurely mornings, as she causally turned the pages of the newspaper, she came across an article that caught her attention. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) had released the names of the college and university undergraduate professors who had been chosen for the 2010 national prestigious Professor of The Year award. As she studied the article’s details, her mind quickly began to focus.

As Szatkowski’s eyes moved from one line to the next in the newspaper article depicting details of the professors’ distinguished accolades and teaching practices, she began thinking. She had a professor at Paradise Valley Community College who was just as accomplished professionally and just as amazing as a teacher. “Why not Lois Roma-Deeley?” she asked herself .

Szatkowski seems ordinary at first glance. Except for her petite size and striking blue eyes, she would easily blend into a group of community college creative writing students. She is rather reserved for a former marketing major and radio news/talk producer. Even though she isn’t particularly outspoken, Szatkowski’s personality, convictions and work experience make for an active retirement.

“She keeps busy, and when she takes hold of an idea, she is passionate and persistent,” says Roma-Deeley, who has known and taught creative writing to Szatkowski for more than eight years.

Szatkowski researched the specifics before approaching Roma-Deely with the idea of nominating her.

“I realized that this nomination was going to take some work, but I believed that Roma-Deeley should do it,” said Szatkowski.

“I was surprised, shocked really,” remembers Roma-Deeley. “I suppose I never thought of myself in the way Carolyn was asking me to.

Moreover, after I realized the enormous amount of work on my part and others, I was apprehensive about committing to such a big project and I thought that I would not win. However, Szatkowski was persistent that I make the effort, so I did.”

The process was indeed lengthy for Roma-Deeley. It involved scholarly writing, precise thinking and massive organization. Peers and students would have to be involved; they would have to be willing to write letters and help gather necessary information.

“At first, Roma-Deeley was hesitant, but I knew how many students and colleagues have been encouraged and strengthened because of her efforts, so the work from others would not be a burden ,” said Szatkowski.

Szatkowski found it easy to write the nominating letter. After all, Roma-Deeley had helped her to become a better reader, invited her into a diverse writing community and provided a very intellectually stimulating classroom in which to grow. Roma-Deeley had made for her a genuine difference.

Marianne Roccaforte, Career Exploration for the Creative Mind instructor and PVCC counselor, gladly agreed to help.

“Lois has been my dear friend, valued colleague and avid supporter for years, so I was enthusiastic to help in any way I could,” Roccaforte said.

Roccaforte facilitated and formalized peer and student input.

“It wasn’t hard to locate former students. Many of Lois’ students have stayed in touch with her as they have progressed through educational goals and professional development; she never quits being their mentor,” said Roccaforte.

On Sep . 7, 2012, Roma-Deeley was in her office grading papers and answering e-mails when the phone rang. President of CASE, Dr. Tony Bryk was on the line; he was calling from Washington D.C. Roma-Deeley assumed he was politely going to thank her for her submission or convey that she had been chosen for state recognition.

“It took some time before winning settled in,” Roma-Deeley shyly admits.

Roma-Deeley phoned Szatkowski after ending the call with Bryk. Szatkowski was away for the weekend visiting a friend in the hospital.
“It wasn’t until Monday that I was able to finally tell her the unbelievable news that I had won,” said Roma-Deely.

“I knew she had the capability to win,” said Szatkowski .

When asked about her trip to Washington to attend the formal affair, Szatkowski said that she felt so honored that Roma-Deeley would choose her to go along.   Months after the prestigious recognition, Szatkowski still believes she played an ordinary role.

Dr. Paul Dale, president of PVCC , also went to Washington for the award ceremony.

“I wasn’t surprised that Dr. Roma-Deeley won, for she has been a tremendous faculty member and accomplished artist in our community for years ,” said Dale. “ However, I am impressed that a PVCC student took the introductory steps that brought this reputable recognition to our campus, highlighting a more than worthy individual and inspiring all of us to celebrate the power inherent in teaching.”

Roccaforte also accompanied Roma-Deeley to Washington to attend a National Press Club luncheon and congressional reception.

“I am incredibly inspired by so many aspects of this whole process,” says Roccaforte. “I am grateful for Carolyn for her role in making this whole series of events possible. The opportunity to go to Washington and celebrate the role that teachers play in their students’ and colleagues’ lives is life-changing. Today, I am more dedicated to making a difference every day in small ways as well as big because I see more clearly the benefits for others.”

PVCC anthropology student Victoria Terrazas is excited about taking Roma-Deeley’s creative writing class.

“From reading her acceptance speech and hearing about it on campus, I can see how exploring and developing writing skills is for everyone, even me,” said Terrazas.


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