With a passion for education, one Cochise College faculty member is making a difference in the lives of many students around the county.

Teresa Vernon, Certified Nursing Association Program coordinator, recently was awarded the Career and Technical Post-Secondary Educator of the Year.

According to a press release, the CTE award recognizes instructors for their accomplishments and dedication to students and CTE in Arizona. Each day, Vernon streams live with students from six small rural high schools in one virtual classroom.

“This is an amazing honor to be recognized as the ACTE AZ 2021 Post-Secondary Educator of the year,” Vernon said in an email. “I feel grateful to all (in the) Cochise Technology Department for putting me in for this award. I share this honor with all of the hard-working faculty both from Cochise College and the high schools who help me teach these two programs in the high schools. Cochise College has instilled in me the love of learning and teaching and this is what I hope to give each of our students.”

Vernon is a 1997 graduate of the Cochise College nursing program and was recruited to be an associate nursing assistant lab and clinical instructor. Since then she has been able to combine her passions of nursing and education at the college for the past 15 years.

“When you’re a nurse, you touch these few people, but when you’re an instructor, you touch all of these lives and the lives they touch,” Vernon said.

Vernon credits the support of her instructors and Dean of Nursing and Allied Health at Cochise College Bethany Hill for letting her grow the program as a result of the technology and resources Cochise College offers, including the downtown campus lab.

“Cochise College invests a lot in their students,” Vernon said. “We are high-touch, learning how to care for people and learning how to deliver the care in a kind, compassionate manner, but we’re also very high tech,” Vernon said.

Vernon has been able to create home health-aide programs in high schools throughout the county and help align students with community partners for hands-on experience in the healthcare industry.

Vernon has worked in a myriad of roles, such as certified nursing assistant, licensed practical nurse and registered nurse. This includes working in emergency departments, rural hospitals and long-term care facilities.

She has been a guest speaker at Vail Unified School District, talking about conducting classes via Zoom and other online learning platforms. She has been a guest speaker for two panels at the Arizona State Board of Nursing annual retreat.

She says when she took over the CNA program at Cochise College, nursing assistant classes were offered only at one high school in Cochise County and two traditional Cochise College campuses. Classes have since expanded to nine county high schools and all four college centers.

She says she loves community nursing and community outreach. In the near future, Vernon would like to return to bedside nursing and offer classes instructing people how to take care of aging or disabled loved ones at home. She also aims to expand nursing programs for rural students in the county.

“I have always appreciated the nursing assistants and the hard work that they do,” Vernon said. “I have worked in a few rural healthcare settings where it is very hard to find well-trained nursing assistants, so I have always been interested in training students to find employment in their own communities.”

Vernon says the biggest problem with rural hospitals is staffing.

“A lot of people, they don’t want to live anywhere else,” Vernon said. “They like living in their communities but they need to have that occupation or career that’s going to allow them to do that. I love rural health.”

Hill congratulated Teresa on her award in an email statement:

“This is a well-deserved recognition and honor for somebody who is extremely dedicated to the CTE program, students and Cochise College. The faculty and staff in the nursing and allied health department continue to work above and beyond to provide quality education for students.”