I worked, during my years as an associate professor of English, in the community college?s learning center. There, we did teaching in all disciplines, held auxiliary and other classes, performed computer-assisted instruction, and catered to students of general and specific income groups, ethnic origins, and abilities and disabilities.
The latter three demographics were often part of a government-funded program that allowed us to serve, support, and give stipends and scholarships to financially and mentally/emotionally challenged learners as well as gifted students of low incomes. This meant we got to have contests, trophies and awards ceremonies, and thoughtful, seasonal events and celebrations.
Suffice it to say, we were big on student empowerment and success. We were just as big on ceremony, especially on the kind that acknowledged and honored hard work, unifying attitudes, and academic acceleration. As classified employees, we had the joy of determining, choosing, and ordering the trophies and awards the students and supporters (teachers, tutors, sponsors, et.
al.) would receive.
Two of my closest co-workers, friends and I would get the trophies and awards catalogues and look them over as if they were The Enquirer or a copy of Cosmo?. We kept an eye toward finances, but we also went at the task of ordering these trophies with creativity and enthusiasm that yielded theme trophies and awards, unusual trophies and awards, and thoughtful, pragmatic trophies and awards.
If we already knew the recipients?for, say, a retirement ceremony?we got to personalize the trophies and awards so that each fit the individual?s preferences, likes, personality, and decorating style. For example, for a sober and quiet facilitator, who had a very smooth work-style and who LIKED the plain gold and wood plaque, we ordered a recognition award that was etched with words which spoke to our colleague?s dedication and industriousness.
After 9-1-1, and during the crunch time that several community college and other school districts suffered through, a number of our co-workers took the offer to retire early?like the golden handshake, this offer ensured uncontested unemployment, a stipend for every year of service, and an opportunity to not only escape work but allow those who needed to stay to keep their jobs.
My co-workers and I?in charge of the retirement parties and trophies and awards, the speeches, the itineraries, the foods, etc.?got a brilliant idea for which trophies and awards we would order. Because the learning center Trio program had been dubbed STAARS (for student academic achievement and maintenance services), we found, after much searching, these great Academy Award-like pieces?a ?gold? figure holding up a giant star. You get the implications, the metaphors, and the possibilities, right? And not only were these trophies and awards much more unique and greatly appreciated, they sure beat the old stand-by of a timepiece of sorts?a clock or a watch or what have you?.