CC Foundation names 2023 Exceptional Faculty Award winners

The Centralia College Foundation has selected Lisa Spitzer and Dan Taylor to receive the 2023 Exceptional Faculty Awards.

They were chosen for their commitment to and excellence in their subject areas, and participation in campus activities.

Both will be formally honored at the Centralia College Night of Celebration on June 15.

Lisa SpitzerLisa Spitzer

Lisa Spitzer started her career as a math teacher, first in Hawaii for four years and then in Yelm, teaching both middle and high school students for 11 years. She loved it, but a conversation with her sister led her to Centralia College.

“I told my sister that I wanted to teach adults one day and right away she saw a position at Centralia College,” Spitzer recalled. “She said, ‘I think this is for you.’”

Spitzer has been teaching pre-college math at Centralia College since 2013.

“At the pre-college level is where I feel most useful,” she said. “Most students are scared of math. Maybe they’ve never been to college before or they’ve been away for 20 -plus years. I love to build their confidence and show them they can do this.

In addition to teaching at the main Centralia campus, Spitzer also teaches youth offenders at Green Hill School in Chehalis. The partnership with the college started in 2020 and has grown from initially helping students recover some high school credits to now earning bachelor’s degrees while incarcerated.

“Working out at Green Hill has really rejuvenated my love of teaching,” she said. “If they can get a degree before they’re released, they’re the least likely to reoffend. At that point, it’s not just opening doors, it’s saving lives.”

Dan TaylorDan Taylor

Math professor Dan Taylor began his career at Centralia College in 1995 as a math tutor through the TRIO Student Support Services program (a federal support program for first-generation, low-income students and those with disabilities). That position led to teaching pre-college math through the college’s Transitional Education program. When he went back to school for his master’s degree, he continued to teach at Centralia College part-time in the summers before being hired as a full-time math professor nearly 20 years ago.

Though Taylor teaches math at all levels, he loves calculus the most.

“Calculus is kind of like the bridge between what most people think of as math and the science behind math,” he said. “I love calculus. I’ve always loved math, though. I was the kid all the other kids went to when they had problems with their math homework.”

In addition to his work in the classroom, Taylor has been working on two larger projects for CC math and science students. He is working with The Evergreen State College to build direct transfer routes from Centralia College to Evergreen’s science programs. He is also working through the details of a new bachelor’s degree at CC, a Bachelor’s of Science in Computer Science, which Taylor hopes to launch in fall 2024.