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Award-winning excellence: Rebecca Canges

Faculty Senate Teaching Excellence Award recipient Rebecca Canges talks about finding inspiration by helping learners.

By Cory Phare

July 6, 2017

School of education faculty member Rebecca Canges received the Faculty Senate Teaching Excellence award from MSU Denver President Stephen Jordan at the 2017 faculty and staff appreciation barbecue.
School of education faculty member Rebecca Canges received the Faculty Senate Teaching Excellence award from MSU Denver President Stephen Jordan at the 2017 faculty and staff appreciation barbecue.

The Distinguished Service and Faculty Senate Teaching Excellence award winners were announced by MSU Denver President Stephen Jordan at the recent Faculty and Staff Appreciation Barbecue. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been profiling the award recipients and what goes into the making of these remarkable Roadrunner success stories.

Here’s our conversation with Rebecca Canges, associate professor in the Department of Special Education, Early Childhood, and Culturally & Linguistically Diverse Education.

What is your background?

I grew up in Long Beach, California, where I started my career as a research assistant – doing research on effective practices for English Language Learners while also working as a behavioral specialist for children with autism.

While working on my master’s [at California State University – Long Beach], I was a middle school special education teacher, where I had the amazing opportunity to work with students with mild to moderate disabilities and orthopedic impairments, and loved every minute of it! Later, I began teaching at the university level and received my doctoral degree in educational leadership and teaching in multicultural societies from the University of Southern California. I began my career at MSU Denver six years ago.

Where do you draw inspiration?

I draw my inspiration from many things. I have two young sons and I spend as much time as I can with them … and volunteering in their classrooms. Watching them learn and seeing how the teachers work gives me inspiration to be a better teacher educator.

When I left the middle school classroom to work at the University, it was my goal to create programs and experiences that would prepare the best teacher candidates for our kids. So seeing practicing teachers in action inspires me to take what I’ve learned back to my students. Also, I continue to work with families of students with disabilities as their advocate.

My pre-service teacher candidates also inspire me. You can see the light bulb go on, and they have an idea that you know will make a positive difference in the life of a child. That is amazing to me; it makes my heart smile when they are excited to be a teacher.

What’s one day on campus you’ll never forget?

It wasn’t actually on campus, but at the Promenade Ice Center in Westminster where our MSU Denver men’s hockey club team – and my 9-year old son – plays. Last season, one of the players suffered a heart attack during a game. Because my son goes to the same ice rink he was able to play a small intermission contest during a Roadrunners game, where the team gave a check to the young man and his family; it was such a touching moment to see him walk out on the ice. While I did not know the player, it was special for me to share that moment with everyone.

What does it mean to you to win the Faculty Senate Teaching Excellence Award?

Wow, it meant everything! While I love doing research and discovering effective practices to help my students, teaching is what I love the most. The fact that someone acknowledged that what I am doing is worthy of an award and recognition is amazing. I am truly honored.

It’s nighttime, and you’re reflecting on a successful day. What happened?

I always joke with my students that I would love to have a semester where I just do the same thing as I did the semester before! But, that’s just not the type of teacher I am. I’m always looking for new ways to present the information to my students so that it will be meaningful and interesting to them.

Many of my students have full class loads … work full time … and have families. So, sitting in a three-hour class can be difficult. They know I’ve been there; they know I understand. However, they also know that I expect them to be the best! So, I work hard to give them a class that they appreciate, learn from and will be applicable to their future as a teacher.

What does it mean to you to be a Roadrunner?

I spent most of my life in Long Beach, California, and taught at the university from which I (and my mom and brother) graduated. I never thought I would leave! However, when I applied to teach at MSU Denver, I knew it would be the place for me.

The faculty members I work with are amazing – they’re such dedicated and passionate teachers; it is such a privilege to work with them. I’m proud to say that MSU Denver is my “home” and being a Roadrunner is a joy.

Can I be cheesy for a second? Last year I came across a box with some childhood items. One of them was a necklace that my brother bought for me when I turned 10. If you can believe it ... it’s a rose gold Roadrunner charm on a necklace! Perhaps it was a sign.

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