More than 200 students, college administrators, government representatives, faculty, staff and family members attended a reception today honoring Todd Pagano, an associate professor and director of the Laboratory Science Technology program at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf.
Pagano was named “2012 U.S. Professor of the Year” representing a master’s university or college last month in Washington, D.C. by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The awards program, created in 1981, is the only national initiative specifically designed to recognize excellence in undergraduate teaching and mentoring.
“This award salutes the most outstanding undergraduate instructors in the country, those who excel in teaching and positively influence the lives and careers of students. And it’s the first time this honor has been given to an RIT faculty member,” said RIT President Bill Destler. “Todd, your innovative body of work speaks volumes, but it is the connection you make to your students and sharing your love of science with them that makes you truly worth of this honor.”
RIT Provost Jeremy Haefner said: “Todd is the type of educator we all aspire to be: talented, creative, driven, dedicated and relentless in his belief in his students and their abilities. He allows his students to shine, and in doing so, brings honor to them, to himself, to NTID and to all of RIT.”
NTID President Gerry Buckley said it was a proud day for him when Pagano received the award in Washington. The accomplishment was duly noted on the floor of both Congressional houses with comments from Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Louise Slaughter, and Pagano received a framed letter of recognition from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
“It was a great way to remind our representatives of the work that is done each and every day at RIT to educate deaf and hard-of-hearing students and help them become successful contributors to our society,” Buckley said.
Vince Daniele, chairperson of NTID’s Science and Mathematics department, said much of Pagano’s success comes from his high scientific standards and commitment to undergraduate research.
“He has a commitment to the LST program and his students,” Daniele said. “I know he works 60, 70 or 75 hours a week. Success is often the result of the amount of time you put in. He lives, eats and breathes his job. He connects with his students. He speaks to his students in a language they can understand. He convinces students that he believes in their ability to do science and in their ability to succeed, and he convinces students he is interested in their success.”
The guests were shown a video from RIT/NTID alumna Nelsey Carcamo Ortiz, who introduced Pagano at his award ceremony in Washington. She recalls meeting him during her first day or orientation in 2006 and immediately switching her major from mathematics to science.
“He has a powerful way of turning students on to science,” she says. “I had found my passion and also found a mentor who would go on to open many doors for me.”
Pagano is active in the American Chemical Society and has taken about 20 of his students, including Carcamo Ortiz, to regional or national conferences to present the results of their research.
“Through the research experience, he taught me more than just chemistry,” Carcamo Ortiz said. “He taught me how to be brave, outgoing, confident and to speak up about my thoughts and ideas. I learned something new every day, new challenges and creative ways toward problem solving. Dr. Pagano has been an essential part of my education every step of the way.”
Pagano thanked the crowd and recruited three of his current students – who wore white lab coats, safety goggles and blue gloves -to join him.
“It would not be a Todd Pagano-sanctioned presentation without the demonstration,” he said.
The students added three chemicals in a beaker. The swirling mixture turned yellow, then blue, then back to yellow.
Pagano explained that the three chemicals represented his formula for success: support from faculty, administration, colleagues, family; a passion for science and teaching; and his students.
“I work at a unique institution,” Pagano said. “NTID is a wonderful place, where deaf and hard-of-hearing students are taught applied knowledge, self-advocacy, lifelong learning skills and how to thrive in their careers. Being on the campus of a progressive university like RIT, and adding to that, valued support from our Congressional representatives and our industrial partners … that all makes this the perfect environment for success.”