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Glen Oaks’ McNamara is recipient of 2024 E. J. Shaheen Teaching Excellence Award

The Glen Oaks Community College Foundation has announced that Michelle McNamara, professor of communications, is this year’s recipient of the prestigious E. J. Shaheen Teaching Excellence award. Foundation Vice President John Dresser made the announcement during a ceremony in March. McNamara will be recognized during the year’s commencement ceremony on Friday, May 3.

McNamara is described by her students as being a caring, creative and engaging instructor who works tirelessly to make sure her students fully understand concepts and succeed in their communication classes. “Professor McNamara spends so much time leaving detailed and personal feedback on every single one of our speeches and exams,” said one of her nominating students. In addition to her work in the Glen Oaks classroom, she also travels to local high schools to teach students through the dual enrollment and early middle college programs.

A Centreville native, McNamara recalls enjoying helping her teachers out both in elementary school as well as serving as a teacher’s aide in high school. She attended Glen Oaks immediately after high school graduation where she began working as a work study student. Before becoming a full- time faculty member, McNamara worked at WLKM radio as well as being support staff, administration, and part-time faculty for the college.

“Glen Oaks has been a major part of my educational journey, and this award means so much!” said McNamara, who was recently recognized for 30 years of service at Glen Oaks. Her connection to the college runs deep. “My dad, husband, siblings and children are all Glen Oaks alumni—there is no question I have a lot of pride in the work that I do here,” she said.

In addition to her work at Glen Oaks, McNamara enjoys volunteering through the 4-H organization, being recognized in 2023 as the “Volunteer of the Year,” by Michigan State University. McNamara appreciates all of the volunteers and educators who helped her along her own path and she works hard to give back to the community as often as she can.

McNamara has been a leader in advancing the communications department at Glen Oaks, offering courses face-to-face, fully online, and hybrid in numerous high schools. “I had begun developing fully online and hybrid courses before COVID-19 forced all faculty to make those adjustments. Our students have changed over the years and Glen Oaks works hard to ensure we are keeping up with those changes and meeting students where they are at,” said this year’s winner.

“When I was hired, there had never been a full-time communications faculty member, so I was empowered to really develop the department and work closely with other departments to ensure students were walking out of my classroom with what they needed to be successful in their other classes and in the community,” said McNamara. “Ensuring that students learn the foundational aspects of public speaking as well as how to integrate technology is no small task. We want students to be prepared for standing behind a podium and addressing a crowd, as well as how to integrate technology, virtual interactions, and professional presentation uploads. It is important that our students learn the foundations of communication as well as being exposed to new technology.”

Regardless of the setting or situation, strong communication skills are important, and McNamara takes that aspect of her job seriously. “You can tell she still loves what she does- even after being here for a really long time,”—one of her current students said of McNamara’ classroom enthusiasm.

So, what’s in store for McNamara’s future at the college? “I’m committed to staying in the classroom for the foreseeable future,” said McNamara. “I still love what I do, and I am still effective. If or when those things change, I will be happy to walk into retirement knowing I made a difference at the college that made a difference in my life.”

The E. J. Shaheen Chair for Teaching and Excellence Award was initiated in 1984 with a generous donation from E. J. Shaheen, one of the original Glen Oaks Board members. Shaheen, a college professor, lawyer, and business owner, placed a high value on education and spent much of his later life promoting high quality education and education institutions, including Glen Oaks. The award is administered through the Glen Oaks Foundation. McNamara also won the award in 2014.