Outstanding Faculty Award

Each year one-full time faculty member at Jackson College is selected to receive the J. Ward Preston Outstanding Faculty Award. The recipient is chosen on the basis of:

  1. Excellence in teaching techniques
  2. Maintaining superlative rapport with students
  3. Use of innovative and interesting approaches; and
  4. Complete sense of dedication consistent with the finest traditions of Jackson College.

Students, faculty, administrators, and staff members are eligible to nominate faculty to receive these awards. Nominations are received during the months of November through March of each academic year. Nominations can be submitted either electronically, or by filling out a paper nomination form and submitting it by email at hocterkarenm@jccmi.edu or hand delivery to Karen Hocter in Bert Walker Hall, Second Floor, BW 268.

Nominations should address as many of the four criteria listed above as possible, and must provide specific reasons why the nominee should receive the award. The quality, rather than the number or length of nominations will be considered by the selection committee. Nominations must be submitted by the March 2, 2018. No unsigned nominations will be considered.

Nominate a Faculty Member

  • Name of the faculty member you are nominating
  • Nominee Criteria

    Please provide a detailed description of why you feel your nominee should be considered for the J. Ward Preston Outstanding Faculty Award for Full Time or JC Part Time Faculty in each of the areas below.
  • Submitted by

James Ward Preston


“Mr. Community College”
The J. Ward Preston Outstanding Faculty Award memorializes the teacher, counselor, administrator, colleague, and friend who, more than any other individual, deserved the admiration of all who knew him. His thirty-nine years of dedicated service at Jackson Junior College and Jackson Community College (1931-1970) earned him the title of “Mr. Community College.”

Ward Preston received the Bachelor of Science degree from Hillsdale College in 1931, and the Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan in 1934. Upon graduation from Hillsdale he came to Jackson to teach in the natural sciences, holding a joint appointment between Jackson High School and Jackson Junior College until 1938. From 1938 until his untimely resignation because of illness in 1970, Ward Preston taught botany, zoology, anatomy, and other natural science subjects; served as volunteer Director of Athletics and acted as Alumni Secretary; became Dean of Men, Dean of Students, Dean of Faculty, Vice-President for Academic Affairs, and finally, in 1968, Vice- President for Student Personnel Services.

In 1970 the Board of Trustees conferred upon Mr. Preston the title of VicePresident Emeritus. The following passage is from the Faculty Resolution to the Board of Trustees recommending this status. No one in the history of the college has served it more wholeheartedly, and no one has endeared himself more to the entire staff as well as to the student body and the alumni. The faculty is privileged to have worked with him and [is] proud to recommend Ward Preston for appointment as Vice-President Emeritus. In 1989 the Faculty recommended to the Board of Trustees that the annual Outstanding Faculty Award be renamed the “J. Ward Preston Outstanding Faculty Award,” a fitting tribute to one who will always be primus inter pares, the outstanding teacher against whom all the rest will be measured.



Dr. Kristin Spencer
Department Chair and Instructor – Allied Health

Outstanding Faculty Award winner Spencer understands students’ experienceskristin-spenecr

Like some of her students, medical assistant Program Director Kristin Spencer took some time finding a career that was the right fit. Find her fit she did.

Spencer is the 2016 J. Ward Preston Outstanding Faculty Award winner, presented annually to one faculty member for excellence in teaching and outstanding rapport with students. She came to Jackson College six years ago to teach and coordinate the medical assistant program.

Working in the health care field wasn’t Spencer’s first plan after high school. She had started out in college, then stopped out and worked various jobs. With experience as a receptionist, she took a job in receptionist/billing in a doctor’s office. She enjoyed the environment but quickly realized that medical assistants were able to provide something more to patients than she could as the person asking for payment. She decided to give medical assisting a try and returned to college.

“I was the one nobody ever thought would be in health care. Then I realized I loved it,” Spencer said.

After becoming a medical assistant, she worked in several medical offices over the years – obstetrics and gynecology, family practice, pulmonary and internal medicine. During a layoff from one job, she and a friend were having a garage sale and by chance, she ran into a past teacher who suggested she try teaching. She did and found a new way to help people. She obtained her bachelor’s and master’s degree from Baker College and completed a doctorate from Capella University.

“This is a field that I am passionate about, and I think that really helps,” she said. “To be able to get others excited and passionate about it, that’s rewarding.”

In addition to teaching, Spencer created new allied health programs for the College and oversees other programs. Away from the office, work is still her passion – she sometimes works till midnight grading and developing curriculum, and is thankful for the support of her husband, Paul. Students know if they e-mail her, she will respond within 24 hours and that she will be there through every step of their journey. Working with students is always exciting.

“One of the best things about my job is that so many of my students are non-traditional. I have students from ages 20-60, with every student at a different place in their life but starting something new here. To see people from all walks of life get excited or inspired, I know that even if I’m no longer directly working in health care, I am still able to help people,” she said.

Each year, one Adjunct Faculty member at Jackson Community College is selected to receive the Outstanding Adjunct Faculty Award. The recipient is chosen on the basis of:

  1. Teaching excellence and innovation in support of the Learning college;
  2. Maintaining superlative rapport with students;
  3. Complete sense of dedication consistent with the goals of the department and the values of the college; and
  4. Having taught for JCC a minimum of ten semesters (not necessarily consecutive)


Cynthia Valentine
Adjunct Instructor, Music

Teaching draws musician, jazz singer back to classroom

Cynthia Valentine has been a public school teacher and traveled the country as a jazz singer. She’s hit a high note as an adjunct music instructor at Jackson College – she is the 2016 Outstanding Adjunct Faculty Award winner!

Valentine has taught Understanding Music, History of American Popular Music, and Applied Voice at Jackson College for three years. She started playing piano at age 5 and attended The Ohio State University as a music major where her principal instrument was alto saxophone. After completing her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, she taught for 10 years in the public schools and then resigned to perform full-time. She moved to Nashville, taught herself to play guitar and made a living as a jazz singer. She recorded three CDs as Cynthia Kaay Bennett, co-producing the first two and producing the third all by herself. They have played on more than 50 radio stations here and abroad. She toured around the U.S. for more than seven years. When she got married in 2005 to husband, Kirk, she moved to Adrian.

“After singing all over the country for 26 years, I felt drawn back to teaching,” Valentine said. “To have the opportunity to share that love of music and love of learning with others was something I missed. As excited as I get about music, I can’t help but want to share it.”

She makes her classes fun for her students, many of whom come in just knowing about their own favorite music they may have on MP3 or YouTube. Through activities like Jazz Jeopardy, she brings musical styles and periods alive for her students. She hopes they leave with a better appreciation for music.

“When working with students and they see how it all morphs together, see that they learned more than they thought they would, I like being part of that.”

Winning this award was so exciting, she said. I love how administration, faculty and staff parade around the buildings with shakers, tambourines and drums and “proclaim” the award winners. “I was surprised, sitting there trying not to cry. I am very thankful.

“It’s been a special three years for me at Jackson College. I have felt very welcomed and valued,” Valentine said.