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Palomar faculty recognized for excellence in teaching

Story by Richard Contreras 

Part-time faculty member, Samuel Azab, and full-time faculty member, Dr. Leanne Maunu were awarded as 2019 Distinguished Faculty.

The announcement was made on March 4 by Candace Rose.

The annual award, founded in 1987, is given based on nominations from students and faculty members that wish to recognize outstanding teaching, dedication, and enthusiasm on behalf of faculty members at Palomar College.

Faculty members, who can only receive an award once in their lifetime, must accept their nomination before the award committee interviews them and selects the winners and finalists.

“This is very important to me because teaching is not just a job, it’s a calling,” Azab said.

Professor Azab teaches Arabic as a foreign language and won his award on his first nomination after five years of teaching at Palomar. Azab has been teaching Arabic for 16 years.


Samual Azab, who teach Arabic as a foreign language, was awarded a Distinguished Faculty Award after his fifth year of teaching at Palomar. Richard Contreras/The Telescope

His experience includes teaching at the Defense Language Institute for the U.S. Military in Monterey, Calif., Naval Special Warfare Command for SEALs in Coronado, Calif., and for students at the University of San Diego.

Azab said he tries to build connections with his students by learning about who they are, their families, and their hobbies. He says he tries to help students apply what they’ve learned outside of the classroom by planning trips to Middle-Eastern restaurants so they can order food in Arabic.

“It’s very important for my students to know that as soon as they come into my class, there’s no stress, that it is going to be fun,” Azab said.

Having grown up in Cairo, he also stresses to his students the importance of acceptance and understanding of Arabic culture to promote non-ethnocentric viewpoints.

Azab dedicates his award to his daughter, Sophia, who has always encouraged him.

Maunu, a 17-year professor at Palomar, said she has been a finalist eight times. She sees the award as feedback that her students appreciate the work she’s doing.

Maunu has been teaching English for 25 years and claims she has taught 13 different classes.

Leanne Maunu was a finialist for the Distinguished Faculty award eight times and received the award with honor. Richard Contreras/The Telescope

“Palomar College and this department have so many great teachers, so it feels very much like an honor to represent the department in this way,” Maunu said.

In May, the winners will receive a plaque at the Faculty Achievement Ceremony of Excellence. They will also receive a $1,000 honorarium, and a designated parking spot for the following year.

As this year’s full-time faculty winner, Maunu will also give a speech at next year’s commencement ceremony.

This year’s award also included ten finalists: Sarah Beck from Earth Sciences, Jasibe Carslake from World Languages, Amy Caterina from Photography, Andrew Cooper from Biology, Sean Figg from Earth Sciences, J Martin Leyva from Behavioral Sciences, Scott Nelson from World Languages, Matt O’Brien from Behavioral Sciences, Lakshmi Paranthaman from Business, and Barbara Springer-Hammons from Child Development.

Amy Caterina, a finalist this year, said it means a lot when students nominate professors who have made a difference in their life. “I encourage them (students) to recognize someone who has helped them recognize a lifelong dream project or a new path at work.”


Image Sources

  • azab2: The Telescope Newspaper | All Rights Reserved
  • maunu1: The Telescope Newspaper | All Rights Reserved
  • maunu1: The Telescope Newspaper | All Rights Reserved
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