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Chemistry Faculty Member Helen Tanzini Honored as Distinguished Teacher at MCCC Commencement


West Windsor, N.J. - For Helen Tanzini, of Hamilton, associate professor of chemistry at Mercer County Community College, teaching is a privilege, a chance to make a difference in people's lives that trumps money and fame.

That was Tanzini's message as she accepted the 2010 Distinguished Teaching Award at MCCC's commencement ceremonies on May 20. In introducing Tanzini, who serves as Chemistry program coordinator, MCCC President Patricia C. Donohue noted that this dedicated faculty member is appreciated by students for her extensive knowledge, enthusiasm, preparedness, teaching style, and availability to provide help outside the classroom.

In his nomination form, one student summed up his experience with Tanzini by noting, "She gives endlessly of herself…all those who ask for assistance in the subject walk away knowing much more than anticipated. She does this day in and day out with grace and dignity." Another commented, "Professor Tanzini really teaches both the art and science of chemistry, making organic chemistry understandable and enjoyable." Said a third, "She is a teacher who pushes students to work harder."

Tanzini was also credited with developing lab materials and curricula for a wide cross section of students -- from those pursuing careers in science to those fulfilling general education requirements. To that end, Tanzini and Associate Biology Professor Laura Blinderman developed a popular course for non-science majors, Chemical Science Concepts, which uses forensics to explore basic science concepts.

A member of the MCCC faculty since 1998, Tanzini has become well known at the college and in the community for her tireless efforts as an advocate for science learning and for creating teaching opportunities for students. For the past 12 years during National Chemistry Week in October, she has organized a group of students and faculty that presents science experiments at area elementary schools. Approximately 7,000 youngsters in 34 schools have enjoyed this popular program. In the spring she organizes a group that volunteers at Super Science Saturday at the New Jersey State Museum.

Distinguished Teacher Helen Tanzini addresses
graduates during commencement.
Tanzini, fourth from left, with science grads who stopped to congratulate her. Pictured, from left, are Buyan Jargalsaikhan, Peng Wai Tham, James Hodges and Afefa Shahid.

A beaming Tanzini addressed the graduates, first recalling her early years at Mercer. "As time passed I began to see Mercer as the exciting, thriving community that it is and I wanted to be a part of it." She reflected on the important role that teachers play and invited audience members "to think of a teacher who made a difference in your life…and give them a round of applause so loud that no matter where they are they can hear it."

Tanzini also spoke of the many satisfactions that come with teaching. "I am honored that I have been able to build lasting relationships with both staff and students. It makes my day when a student returns to visit or an e-mail arrives letting me know of their accomplishments and I know that I have played a small part in their success."


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