Monday, April 6, 2015

Rio Salado Honors Outstanding Educators

Image of Holly Harper and Kishia Brock.

"When work becomes play, and play becomes your work, your life unfolds." 

That Robert Frost quote rings true for Scottsdale resident Holly Harper and Phoenix resident Kishia Brock. As recipients of the 2014-15 John & Suanne Roueche Excellence Awards, these educators prove that when you love what you do for a living, it is easy to make a difference in the lives of others.

The national award is given to community college educators who demonstrate excellence in community college teaching and leadership. What makes it even more special is that recipients are nominated by their colleagues.

Harper is the faculty chair of Rio Salado’s dental programs. Among her duties is managing the college dental clinic, which provides discounted preventive dental hygiene services to the public.

Harper at Rio Salado Dental Clinic with volunteer instructors
“What I love most about my job is working with the students in the dental clinic and interacting with patients,” Harper said. “I am also proud to see the students graduate and realize their dreams.”

Harper can relate to her students on another level. She earned a bachelor’s degree in health science 26 years after receiving her associate degree in dental hygiene.

“I know first-hand what it is like to return to school as an adult learner working full-time,” said Harper. “So, to be nationally recognized for teaching excellence leaves me at a loss for words.”

Rio Salado Faculty Senate President Kerrie Specker said Harper was instrumental during the college’s recent successful re-accreditation process of both the dental assisting and dental hygiene programs.

“Holly has a focus on student success, which is evidenced by the success of the dental program,” Specker said. “Last year, both graduating classes had a 100% pass rate on the national and clinical board exams.”

Fellow honoree Brock serves as the newly-appointed vice president of strategy and compliance at the Maricopa County Community College District.

She accepted the post after 17 years at Rio Salado College, where she started her career as a bilingual academic advisor and worked her way up to vice president of student affairs.

“One thing I am most proud of is the development and implementation of Rio’s electronic student file advisement tool,” Brock said. “This system is the backbone for ‘RioCompass,’ which is an online platform for tracking a student’s degree progress.”

RioCompass enables students to set academic and career goals, and mark their progress toward these goals, and instructors to monitor their progress.

“I am also very proud of the online student success helpdesk, which assists 1,000 students each year in pursuing their educational goals,” said Brock.

Both of Brock’s initiatives have received national recognition as effective student success models.

Kishia Brock, left of Bill Gates, during Nov. 2015 visit.
(c) Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation/Mark Makela
“It is an incredible honor to be nominated by my colleagues and wonderful to be recognized for doing work that I absolutely love and feel so fortunate to be involved in every day,” Brock said.
The John & Suanne Roueche Excellence Awards are made possible by the League for Innovation in the Community College. Visit for more details.

This story can also be found in the April 4, 2015 edition of the Tempe Republic.  By Rio Salado staff writers Annette Flores and Mira Radovich.