Professor Hillary Gallego is known around campus for the lengths she goes to make English engaging, fun, and approachable. The top priority, she says, is “to connect the course content with the lives of the students.”
The result is students who are eager to learn more about literature, and who feel a connection with the works they study. That’s why students voted Gallego the 2015 North Lake College Faculty of the Year.
Gallego, who dreamed of being a teacher when she was in elementary school, has a unique teaching style incorporating music videos, current events, pop culture, and field trips. Her students can often be spotted outdoors around campus. “I take students outside of the classroom, literally,” she says. “We go outside and do things like a Grammar Scavenger Hunt,” where students correct ungrammatical clues to complete the mission.
“She has a different way of teaching,” says student Manuella Logbo. “Instead of just standing there and lecturing us, she asks us questions that make us think, she wants our feedback, she wants us to talk.” Logbo adds, “She didn’t just help me in the classroom: she helped me outside as well.”
Professor Gallego takes her engaging style beyond the classroom as faculty advisor to the Student Veterans’ Association. Though not a veteran herself, she advises the SVA because she has seen friends struggle to adjust from military to civilian life. Gallego organizes meetups and events for the veterans, so they can “create a bond” with each other, and even helped them stage a 5k charity run in the spring of 2015. That charity run raised about $2,500, which the students used to create a new scholarship fund for veterans.
That special bond with her students and with veterans is what Gallego enjoys most about teaching at a community college. “I love that I get to spend the majority of my time focused on the students. To me, this is the difference between a community college and a university—the personalized, human experience is emphasized over merely fulfilling an obligation to earn a sheet of paper. I love this.”