English Instructor Tiffany Palsgrove chosen 2020 Adjunct Faculty of the Yearby Jan Janes on Jul 12, 2020
Tiffany Palsgrove, adjunct faculty, and Scott Sandler, full time faculty, both from the English department, were voted by their peers as Faculty of the Year 2020.
This article profiles Tiffany Palsgrove’s work and
some of the comments included in her nomination.
“Tiffany has been an exemplary faculty member, both in her own classes and improving teaching and learning in the English Department.”
Palsgrove teaches English 1A, 1B, and 1C, along with Literature 4a and 4b. She worked at Gavilan for two years, left in 2007 to focus on family, and returned in 2015.
“I try to make English as fun as it can be,” she said. “I do a lot of scaffolding and student subject choice. Students can see that every assignment and discussion is explicitly connected.” Students learn the concepts, explore nuances and expand their critical thinking.
“Many of their assignments are low stakes journal assignments,” said Palsgrove. “Students can practice the skill, and I can intervene immediately if I see a student struggling with a concept.”
She recalled her own college days, turning in an essay and then having to wait to know if it was right or wrong. The low stakes assignments have no penalties, and students can progress through the materials.
Palsgrove works to build classroom community in her English classes. “With collaboration and social learning, the students are working with their peers to accomplish the work in a productive learning environment.”
Support is built into classes, including embedded tutors. “If a student is struggling, I can work with them during office hours or they can choose to work with one of the fellows,” she said.
She also picks themes that aren’t intimidating and allow for student choice. “In English 1A we look at the role pop culture plays in implicit bias,” said Palsgrove. “Pop culture is in their faces all the time.” Class discussions explore systemic and unconscious bias and underlying stereotypes.
“Students say they appreciate being given choices of what they think is important,” she said, “Not just what the instructor thinks that students should think is important.”
“English 1A is a required class,” said Palsgrove. It’s also an exhausting, hard class. “By the end of the semester they understand their strengths.”
“Tiffany had a key role in the English Department’s efforts to address AB 705 through curricular improvements and professional learning.”
Until recently community colleges required assessment tests, and students had to demonstrate a certain level of readiness. With the passage of AB 705, colleges can’t deny entry into a transfer-level, unit-earning class.
“Before AB 705 fully implemented, I spent an entire semester under the BSOTT grant studying support and curriculum,” said Palsgrove. “I spent a full year overhauling my curriculum.”
The English department didn’t know how AB 705 would specifically affect English classes. They did pursue new ways to present the curriculum.
Palsgrove attended conferences and presented department trainings to prepare the instructors and develop the curriculum. Based on the training and feedback, she implemented new curriculum the first semester and has assessed and adjusted it ever since.
“This is rewarding,” she said. “We have open, instructive dialogue in the classroom. Students learn to get beyond their own internal environments about their abilities.”
“It shifts the way we see our students to a focus on the strengths-based approach to teaching,” said Palsgrove.
“Tiffany has taken important roles in campus shared governance, serving as Faculty co-chair of Guided Pathways and currently as adjunct Vice President of GCFA.”
“Guided Pathways is designed to create partnerships in the best interests of the students,” said Palsgrove. “It is a long process. What’s great is it pulls people out of their silos.”
While serving as faculty co-chair, she solicited instructor input, conducted meetings with the leads and shared concerns that were expressed.
“I was a community college student,” she said. “And I don’t come from a family of college graduates.” She credits her boyfriend, now husband, with helping her apply and complete all the required steps. After attending Evergreen College, she transferred to SJSU to earn her BA in English, and she later returned for her MA in English.
“This process is not intuitive, and it can be very discouraging,” said Palsgrove. “Students can feel ‘I don’t belong here.’”
“At community college, students have more ambiguity about what it means to be a college student,” she said. “They openly question whether they should be here.”
“We are so accustomed to the college environment, we don’t realize how overwhelming it can be, nothing like their high school experience,” she said. “Guided Pathways can help students acclimate to college culture.”
“Gavilan students are very bright and capable,” said Palsgrove. “Many students enter 1A feeling inadequate; some have even mentioned that they don’t feel ‘smart enough.’ My goal is to help all students see themselves as the intelligent college students they are. My experience in English 1C is a little different, and students are often more confident in their role as college students.”