Rock, Poli Sci, Music


Three professors rise to the top of their game

Article by Linda Relyea

A quarter century combined experience and a shared purpose to foster the love of learning -- Adams State College professors Dr. Rob Benson, professor of earth science; Dr. Mari Centeno, associate professor of political science; and Dr. Beth Robison, assistant professor of music, received the 2012 Presidential Teacher Award, recognizing outstanding undergraduate teaching, advising, and mentoring.

All had similar reactions upon hearing they were selected. Benson, "shocked and honored," Centeno, inspired to "further live up to the honor," and Robison "surprised, humbled, and grateful to her students."


Robison said: "I believe in teaching music through performance and putting theoretical concepts into practice." These may take the form of theory, history, vocal pedagogy, or artistic interpretation. "Many of our students will become teachers, it is important to provide them with the practical tools they will need."

Centeno, a great admirer of Paulo Freire's "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" model, wants students to engage the material and understand how it is important and relevant to their lives. "Students must take charge of their education, not have it fed to them." She accomplishes this with a lot of discussion and debate. When Centeno raises her standards and challenges students, they rise to the occasion. "I am there to help them rise." As a first-generation college student, Centeno can relate to the issues many of our own first-generation students face.

With 15 years of experience at Adams State, Benson assumes every student comes to Adams State to learn. "Regardless of their background, they bring a perspective that is significant and we can learn from each other." He "loves teaching" all students, from first-year freshman to graduating seniors. "I enjoy watching the students develop and then kicking them out of the nest and watching them fly."

Centeno agrees, "I love being a part of the discovery period, seeing the light bulbs go on." Upper division courses have their appeal as well. "The students in these courses are more prepared for challenging projects. They also challenge me."

It is not so much whether classes are upper or lower divisional, Robison said, as it is whether the students are committed to what they are doing, and then finding ways to inspire those who may not quite be there yet. "My students fuel me in all that I do."

Advising and Mentoring

All three make themselves available for mentoring, advising and directing outside the classroom. Robison directs the Concert Choir, Chamber Choir, and 68 West, the vocal jazz group. She is the adviser for the student chapter of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), and the president of the ASC Pi Kappa Lambda Chapter, a nationally recognized music honor society.

Centeno said advising the Model United Nations Club, is one of the most satisfying areas of her job. She organized travel to The Hague, Thessaloniki, Rome, and Geneva for Model UN competitions. They have won against students from top-tier schools all over the world. "I am very proud of the students who have gone on to find success, and if I had a part in that, it would make me happy."

Benson believes in hands-on learning, taking his classes around the San Luis Valley and groups to Utah and Arizona, to enrich their study of earth sciences. He is also the director of the Edward M. Ryan Geological Museum and was instrumental in the college receiving the collection. This time of year, many local school children visit the museum with their teachers. "We have had well over six thousand visitors since opening the doors in 2005."

Award Committee

Presidential Teacher Award student committee members included Matias Tofoya, Clayton Street, Victoria Miranda, Benjamin Pluta, and Chelsea Oden. The committee received 126 nominations and more than 40 different professors received at least one nomination. After five finalists were selected in January, the committee began a review process including visiting classes and conducting face-to-face interviews with each finalist.

The award recipients were honored at the annual Employee Recognition Ceremony on April 25 on the Adams State campus. Award winners will each receive $1,500 in professional development funds.