Engineering Design Tech Instructor Receives Visionary Award

Fortunate are those who have been inspired by that one teacher whose words and visage stay in their mind for decades, even for a lifetime. Christina Knight is one such teacher.

It’s National Engineers Week®, an opportunity to tell the story of one who is leading others.

Based on heartfelt accolades from faculty and students alike, the Piedmont Technical College (PTC) Engineering Design Technology (EDT) program instructor recently was chosen to receive the college’s exclusive Visionary Award, which recognizes educators who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment and contribution to their students and colleagues.

“Christina’s student focus extends outside of the classroom and into the community,” said Sandy Warner, PTC Department Head for Engineering Technology, in her nomination of Knight for the honor. “Christina has advanced her EDT courses by introducing projects that allow students to design on CAD (computer-aided design) and then 3D-print their products.”

Indeed. Students in one of Knight’s classes designed and produced a custom wheelchair for a senior dog that had become paralyzed. “Over the course of the semester, each student worked with Christina and the dog’s owner to develop different designs that were 3D-printed,” Warner added. “This project not only brought an innovative and community awareness component into the classroom but revealed to students how 3D printing could be used to enhance the medical field.”

In 2016, Knight and one of her students began working with Greenwood nonprofit Beyond Abuse to design and draw up renovation plans for an older building that was donated to the program. Their work helped the program’s director obtain approval on construction permits. That renovation was completed in April 2017.

Warner said that Knight routinely provides students extra help sessions outside of class and continually encourages them to succeed. Semester after semester, students give Knight outstanding reviews on her course evaluations, leaving comments such as “best instructor I’ve ever had” and “she does her best to make sure we understand the material.”

In addition to her other PTC duties and extracurricular activities, Knight serves as the club advisor for the Tau Alpha Pi Engineering Technology Honor Society, has served as a principal investigator for a National Science Foundation grant project to recruit and retain students in STEM-related programs, and coordinated PTC’s Engineering and Industrial Technology Summer Camp for several years.

“It is a true statement that teaching is not a job. It is a calling!” Knight said. “I feel that everyone is capable of learning. We as educators just have to figure out how to get the information to them, which sometimes can be a very difficult challenge in itself.”

Knight went on to say she did not believe teachers can have just one teaching style because students learn in different ways. “I always want to give the students the best experiences possible. One way that I do that is incorporation real-world projects into the classroom,” she said.

As PTC’s Visionary Award winner, Knight will be honored at an awards dinner held in conjunction with the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development’s (NISOD) annual International Conference on Teaching and Leadership this spring in Austin, Texas.

“Christina identifies so strongly with our students because she was a student once herself, right here at Piedmont Tech,” PTC President Dr. Ray Brooks said. “She taught adjunct for a couple of years and became a full-time instructor in 2001. Since then, she has established herself as an educator with a heart of gold and a positive attitude to match.”

“Recognizing those individuals who have contributed to student success and their college’s mission is something we look forward to doing each year,” NISOD Executive Director Dr. Edward J. Leach said. “The extraordinary work of these men and women includes not only what they do for their students and colleagues but what they do for the communities in which they live and work. We’re honored to be able to play a part in celebrating their achievements.”

“I work with an exceptional group of instructors, and to think they believe I am deserving of the award is a very humbling feeling,” Knight said. “I love teaching and changing lives of our students for the better.”