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OJC Press Release ID: 3156

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Otero College Names Employees of the Year for 2022


Otero College is pleased to announce the faculty and staff members who have been named Employees of the Year for 2022. There are four categories of employees that are recognized each year for their outstanding service and dedication to the college. Those categories are: faculty, adjunct instructor, classified and administrative/professional technical.

Faculty of the Year: Cassidy Litle

Cassidy Litle, English, Communication and Theater Faculty, engages with students by asking thought-provoking questions and discussions, which creates a collegial atmosphere where students and the instructor are on similar levels. He meets students where they are and helps them to grow intellectually by examining some of the great literature of all time. He introduces important themes of our collective humanity through plays and dramas and gets students to think about how these ideas are relevant today. He has put on numerous theatrical productions that have been well received by audiences and faculty/staff members. He has even coordinated with other members in the Arts Department for these productions. Through the theatrical productions, Litle has gotten a very shy student who seldom talks to become more outgoing. He serves as a voice in CFAC, representing Otero College at the State-level.

Adjunct Instructor of the Year: Darlene Blackford

Darlene Blackford, Adjunct Instructor, is one of the most extraordinary teachers at Otero College. Caring for students on a personal and academic level is an admirable, and, perhaps, expected trait in a teacher, but Blackford far exceeds normal expectations. She goes above and beyond to make her classes engaging, enjoyable, informative, and meaningful. Blackford has taught many instructors some of those engaging techniques in professional development workshops. Other faculty have learned from her and have used those techniques in their classrooms to better engage the students. Blackford teaches many workshops through the year to educators outside of our community. She is creative and inventive. Above all, she is not only an exceptional teacher, but she is also teaching our future students to become exceptional teachers. Her caring extends beyond Otero College. She serves the community by feeding the community in a monthly church event and volunteers her time with Clean Valley Recycling. Darlene Blackford is an invaluable member of our Otero community.

Classified Employee of the Year: Irma Freidenberger

Irma Freidenberger, Custodian I, is a very respected member of the team at Otero College. She makes sure her day-to day tasks are done in an efficient manner and to a high standard. She is always willing to learn new ways to clean and implements that knowledge. She takes initiative to learn new event set ups and works alongside maintenance to change door locks in her assigned areas. Irma’s are the cleanest on campus, according to her supervisor, and therefore represent Otero College to the highest level. Her attendance is consistent and timely which supports the team’s overall ability to maintain their schedule and meet the needs of the college. Freidenberger goes above and beyond always. She assists students in locating classrooms and offices, as well as having a great working relationship with staff and faculty. She has the ability to make anyone smile.

Administrative/Professional Technical Employee of the Year: Alexa Cihura

Alexa Cihura, TRiO Career/Financial Coach, started at Otero in 2017. She is the longest tenured member of the Student Support Services (TRiO) team. She has continually served as an ambassador for TRiO and is always looking at ways to improve the program and services and as a result, improving the outcomes for the participants. During the last grant cycle, all objectives, but one, were met and much of this success is attributed to her commitment and professionalism to going above and beyond expectations for the program and the students. She holds workshops, does TTO radio broadcasts, takes students on cultural events, edits papers, among several other duties. She always puts her students first and helps them find the best course for them. It isn’t always what the student wants, but what will have the best outcome and gain the most results. She is a highly valued member of the team.

There were several nominations this year. Employees are nominated by their supervisor, or in certain groups by their peers and then voted on by their peers. To even be nominated is a tremendous honor. Those that were nominated for Faculty of the Year were: Kimi Kelley, Anna Matecjeck, Allan Nolan, and Monica Valdez. For Adjunct Instructor of the Year: Joel Gray and Dean Rees. For Classified Employee of the Year: Randy Fritz, Rebecca Hund, and Kurt Paugh. For Administrative/Professional Technical Employee of the Year: Jenn Johnston, Dillon Martin, Tiana Martinez, Debbie Phillips, and Hailey Wold.

In addition to being honored at Otero last week, each of the honorees will be recognized at a special awards ceremony in April, hosted by the Colorado Community College System in Denver.

Press Release Photo
Otero announced the faculty and staff members who have been named Employees of the Year for 2022. Pictured are (l-r); Alexa Cihura, administrative professional technical employee of the year; Kurt Paugh, filling in for Irma Freidenberger who was selected as classified employee of the year and nominated by Kurt; Cass Litle, faculty of the year; Darlene Blackford, adjunct faculty of the year; and Otero President, Tim Alvarez.

Press Release Photo
Irma Freidenberger, who was unavailable for the campus event, is pictured receiving her award as Classified Employee of the Year with Otero President, Tim Alvarez.