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Denise Foley in classroom

Profile: Denise Foley

Biology Professor Demonstrates Excellence in Teaching

Since landing at Santiago Canyon College (SCC) eight years ago, associate biology professor Denise Foley has contributed to the college in countless ways. But first and foremost is her dedication to teaching and to her students. Foley came to SCC from a university where she was a tenured biology professor with many competing responsibilities. The 2014 Full-Time Faculty Excellence Award recipient chose SCC because she wanted to focus on teaching and students.

"Coming from a university biology department, I can assure students that the quality of education that they will get here is no different from a university. In fact, because the faculty here are focused on teaching, they often get better instructors in their courses,” said Foley.

She was hired to develop the microbiology program at SCC where her first priority is teaching microbiology well. Foley enjoys helping students master difficult material and is always on the lookout for novel ways to do this. For example, she uses clickers, or student response systems, to measure students’ understanding of the course material.  Her students become engaged and really enjoy using them, plus she knows when to spend more time explaining a difficult concept. In the laboratory, she has also employed a number of investigative labs so her students not only learn the techniques required, but also get a chance to answer real questions.

“I am here because I want to help students learn. I am a very patient, approachable instructor, but I have high expectations. My expectations are not unreasonable; although sometimes it takes some time and more science courses for them to realize the truth in that statement,” said Foley.

In addition to her classroom teaching, Foley has developed directed learning activities for the STAR (Science Teaching and Resource) Center. She serves as the supervisor for all of the Supplemental Instruction leaders that work with SCC biology courses. These student leaders benefit from training and mentoring provided by the faculty and an assigned learning facilitator preparing them to lead student study groups in historically difficult STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) courses.

For the past two semesters, Foley has coordinated the Title V-funded STEM student-faculty mentor program. She is now finishing a four-year rotation as co-chair of the biology department and serves as an active member of the SCC Speakers Symposium Committee.