Franco de Gomez honored with Atherton Award

Maria Franco de Gomez, instructor in Spanish at Penn State New Kensington, was honored with the 2011 George W. Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching.

The award, named after Penn State’s seventh president, who served from 1882 until 1907, is presented each year to six full-time faculty members who have devoted substantial effort to and developed a record of excellence in undergraduate teaching. Penn State annually honors faculty and staff for the highest levels of academic excellence, outstanding leadership and meritorious service.

"The award is significant because it honors a respected faculty member and highlights the quality of the academic experience offered to our students at Penn State New Kensington," said Arlene Hall, director of academic affairs at the campus. "Maria is one of our very best who exemplifies Penn State excellence."

Franco de Gomez, or "Senora" as she is known in the classroom, has taught Spanish language and Spanish culture classes at the New Kensington campus since 1994. Recipient of the 2004 campus Excellence in Teaching Award, she consistently receives high student ratings and superlative student comments for her teaching performance.

"Learning a second language is always difficult and intimidating," a former student wrote, "but Senora ensures that all of her students find her classes are casual and fun, while also being challenging and informative. She strives to give her students the confidence to learn through practice and conversation."

"Many students struggle with the concept of learning a foreign language," Hall added. "Professor Gomez goes out of her way to make sure that students understand what she teaches in each class session, and she also makes herself readily available to students outside of class."

Prior to arriving at the New Kensington campus, Franco de Gomez held teaching positions at the University of Arizona in Tucson and the University of Pittsburgh. She holds a master's degree in Latin American Literature from the University of Pittsburgh and a bachelor's degree in mathematics from La Normal Superior Nueva Galicia in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Teaching awards run in the Franco de Gomez family. Her husband, Javier Gomez-Calderon, professor of mathematics at the campus, was the 2007 recipient of the Eisenhower Award that recognizes excellence in teaching and student support among tenured faculty. Like his wife, Gomez-Calderon has been honored with the campus' Excellence in Teaching Award.

The Plum Borough, Pa. resident also serves as international programs coordinator at Penn State New Kensington. For the past eight years, she and a colleague, William Hamilton, a 2003 Atherton Teaching Award recipient, have organized and led trips abroad during spring break.

Global Programs provides students with the opportunity to directly experience other countries and other cultures. The program provides students with a variety of opportunities to study in foreign countries for varying periods of time including a week, summer, semester or full year. The objective of the program is to offer students a broader education than can be obtained through classroom experiences. During the past spring break, the campus supported a return trip to Spain with Franco de Gomez and Hamilton leading the group.

In addition to the campus' Atherton award honorees and Gomez-Calderon, three other New Kensington campus faculty members have been recognized with the Eisenhower Award: David Wells, associate professor of mathematics in 2009; K. Robert Bridges, associate professor of psychology, in 2005; and Linda L. Shoop, associate professor emeritus of education, was a 2004 recipient.

"Penn State New Kensington is privileged to add Franco de Gomez to the distinguished list of previous recipients of the University's excellence in teaching awards," Hall said.

For a list of previous campus faculty award recipients, visit http://www.nk.psu.edu/43767.htm online.

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Last Updated March 31, 2011