Two Lake Tahoe Community College instructors were recently honored by their students and peers for their outstanding work in the classroom.
Students selected English instructor Michael O’Laughlin as their Teacher of the Year, and fellow faculty members chose Sociology and Anthropology instructor Dr. Scott Lukas for the Distinguished Faculty Award.
Both winners will receive $500 from the LTCC Foundation and $500 toward the college program, scholarship or classroom of their choice.
“In my mind, they’re both so highly qualified …” Dean of Instruction Kurt Green said Monday. “They’re really top of the field in their areas.”
Both O’Laughlin and Lukas have been teaching at the college since the mid- to late 90s and have been authors or editors of several books.
Lukas, who moved to South Lake Tahoe in 1998, has edited or authored six books including “Theme Park” and “The Immersive Worlds Handbook: Designing Theme Parks and Consumer Spaces.”
He said he came to LTCC to be at a smaller college and work more closely with students.
“I liked the idea of teaching students who have been typically denied opportunities in life, including education, and it seemed like a place to really focus on the value of broad social science education,” he said in an Oct. 2 press release.
Lukas wrote his dissertation about the American theme park industry while pursuing a doctorate in Anthropology at Rice University. He has also been the subject of several media interviews for his work in the area of gender and pop culture.
Receiving the Distinguished Faculty Award was a big surprise, Lukas said, but he was pleased to get the recognition.
“It’s a big honor,” he said Monday. “I think particularly because we have so many qualified faculty that I think deserve the award.”
O’Laughlin, a full-time LTCC English instructor since 1996, authored the 2001 novel “Omens in a Dry Season: A Novel of Yosemite” and won a Henfield Award in 1992 for “The Diorite Whales,” a short story.
He primarily teaches two English classes that serve as the foundation for college writing, according to LTCC. Because of this, and because of his preferred method of workshop-style teaching, he’s constantly in touch with students of all majors.
“Students tell me all the time, ‘I never liked literature before!’” O’Laughlin said in a press release. “It’s my enthusiasm and passion for literature that they’re responding to, regardless of whether they ever felt a connection to it before or not.
“No matter what their background,” he added. “I tell my students: give me you, and I’ll help you become a better writer.”
O’Laughlin now spends most of his time focusing on his family and developing as an instructor, he said Tuesday. Like Lukas, he was surprised to hear that he had won an award, but he was appreciative of his selection.
“It was kind of a validation in that way,” he said in an interview. “I’ve always known they liked the class, but now I was like ‘they really do!”
New documentary to play at LTCC
Lake Tahoe Community College’s Theatre Department will present a film Oct. 12 that is based on the life and death of Matthew Shepard.
Shepard was a gay college student who was tortured, tied to a fence and left for dead in Laramie, Wyoming in 1998.
The film, “Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine,” will be premiered in the area for the first time at 7 p.m., according to Theatre Arts Instructor Susan Boulanger. It will be played on the 15th anniversary of Shepard’s death. Tickets cost $5 at the door.
California unveils enhanced websites for recent graduates
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled on Tuesday two newly enhanced websites aimed at helping recent graduates as they explore colleges and careers.
The enhancements are part of Torlakson’s Career Readiness Initiative, which intends to boost the state’s graduation rate and better prepare high school graduates for the workforce, according to a California Department of Education press release.
“The diversity of our global economy can provide many opportunities for students, but having so many choices can be challenging as well,” Torlakson said in the release. “With new features on two really great Web sites, we’re working to give students the resources they need to plan their path to a successful future.”