Piper Professor nominees recognized for outstanding work

12.17.2013 | By Andrea Vasquez

San Jacinto College has named Cristina Cárdenas, Cindra Daniels, and Tammy Miller as its 2014 Minnie Stevens Piper Professor nominees. Photo credit: Andrea Vasquez, San Jacinto College marketing, public relations, and government affairs department.

Piper Professor nominees recognized for outstanding work

Andrea Vasquez -- December 18, 2013



HOUSTON – San Jacinto College has named Cristina Cárdenas, Cindra Daniels, and Tammy Miller as the 2014 Minnie Stevens Piper Professor award nominees.

Since 1958, The Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation has recognized outstanding professors from two- and four-year colleges and universities, both public and private. As a non-profit, charitable corporation, one of its biggest programs is the Piper Professor Program. Ten awards of $5,000 are distributed annually to college professors for superior teaching. Nominations are based on submissions by each college or university in the state of Texas.

“Being selected as the San Jacinto College South Campus nominee is a great honor and humbling experience,” said Cárdenas, who teaches speech. “To have my colleagues’ respect is very special. I never forget where I came from, and knowing this, I am able to relate to my students and recall where my journey began, and how I got to where I am today.”

At 22, shortly after graduating from The University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor’s of Science in speech communication, Cárdenas suddenly became very ill and was given a year to live. Despite being humbled by her illness and dependent on others, she knew she did not want to be a teacher. Both her parents were teachers, so remembering growing up in a household where constant sacrifices were being made was not the way she wanted to spend the last year of her life. A few months later, the academic dean at Laredo Community College (LCC) called and asked if she would be interested in teaching five speech classes. Reluctantly accepting the position, after her first day, Cárdenas found her calling and has not looked back.

“I decided that if I only had a year to live that I wanted to spend it making a difference. I wanted to show my students how to use their voice to speak their mind, inform others, or persuade others. I wanted to teach them how to speak up when they saw an injustice occurring. Most of all, I wanted them to know that they were important to the success of our society. Education is the only true way to eradicate poverty and to elevate humanity.” After her first year teaching at LCC, Cárdenas went on to finish her Master of Arts in Speech Communication at Texas State University and that same year went into remission. In 2006, after she and her husband welcomed their first son, Daniel, she began teaching speech at San Jacinto College and has continued motivating her students since.

Medical radiography professor Cindra Daniels was chosen as the San Jacinto College Central Campus Piper nominee. Daniels has been teaching at the College for 34 years and feels truly honored and grateful to receive the nomination. Daniels received her radiography education in Iowa and was inspired by her instructor, Mr. Randall Whitmore, who now teaches accounting at San Jacinto College. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, Iowa, and her Master of Science degree from the University of Houston.

Daniels added that all of the advancements in medical imaging technology have kept her interested and passionate about teaching students who want to go into the field. “Education has changed throughout the years and I feel proud to be a part of the San Jacinto College faculty.” Also a member of the College’s Achieving the Dream core team, Daniels experiences the true commitment to student success on a daily basis.

She also believes that teaching has allowed her to be a good role model for her own children. Daniels’ oldest daughter Marissa is an orthopedic surgical resident at The Ohio State University; her youngest daughter Michlene is attending medical school at Texas A&M University; and her son Jarryd, a Texas A&M University graduate, is working as a mechanical engineer.

Psychology professor Tammy Miller is this year’s San Jacinto College North Campus nominee. Miller has taught at the College since 2000, when she began as a supplemental instruction facilitator while completing her Master’s degree in psychology. What began as a guest lecture to a San Jacinto College psychology class has now become a fulfilling teaching career that Miller herself is still humbled about.

“I see so much potential in students, and it is my heart’s desire to create a class where they discover that potential themselves,” said Miller. “Students have abilities they have not yet tapped when we get them here. My classes are challenging and create a platform to search for answers instead of depending on traditional lecture to paint the picture. They learn to think critically and back up their thoughts with meaningful evidence.”

One core element to Miller’s teaching philosophy is teaching tolerance and acceptance. “Annually, approximately 25 percent of adults will be diagnosed with a mental disorder according to the National Institute for Mental Health. The stigma associated with these disorders saddens me because this often leads to a feeling of being ‘less than.’ I want my students to understand that treating a mental disorder is no different than treating any physical illness – go to the doctor and get the right help. When my students leave my class, it is my hope that they will pass this knowledge on, and we will be one small step closer to helping others instead of judging them. I do what I do out of love for our students, so to be recognized in this way is such a wonderful gift. This is definitely one of the highlights of my teaching career.”

The Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation will announce the winners of this year’s awards on May 1, 2014.

About San Jacinto College

Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. The Achieving the Dream Leader College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of 30,000 students in more than 200 degree and certificate options, including university transfer and career preparation. Students also benefit from the College’s job training programs, renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $630 million each year to the Texas workforce. San Jacinto College. Your Goals. Your College.

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