Nursing, Geology Instructors Named Recipients of Centralia College’s 2021 Exceptional Faculty Award


The Centralia College Foundation recently selected instructors within the college’s nursing and geology programs to receive the school’s 2021 Exceptional Faculty Award.

According to a news release from the college, the instructors were chosen for their “commitment to and excellence in their subject areas, and participation in campus activities.”

Nursing instructor Teneal Gustafson worked as a nurse for 23 years before transitioning to teaching about six years ago. Prior to the transition, she had been assigned a nursing student to mentor as she was working in a pediatric intensive care unit.

That experience was so rewarding that she moved into teaching.

“When I decided to teach, I knew right away I wanted to teach here,” Gustafson said in a statement. “This is my alma mater. My degree from Centralia College changed my life — I wanted to give something back … I love those ‘aha’ moments — when something (my students) previously didn’t understand just clicks.”

Gustafson is the chair of the nursing department and holds broad instructing roles in many of the classes throughout the program. She is also on the Curriculum Review Committee.

Geology instructor Michelle Harris is the other recipient of the award. She was hired at Centralia College from a part-time teaching position in Portland back in 2017.

“I love seeing students get excited about the earth,” she said. “I love seeing them succeed in my classes and get over their fear of science. I love sharing my passion for rocks, volcanoes, dinosaurs and climate change with others.”

Harris serves on multiple college committees, including the Sustainability Committee, the Assessment Committee and the Exceptional Student Award Committee. She also serves as the faculty adviser of the student Environmental Science Club.

Outside of the classroom, Harris is also the coordinator of the Rising Tides Seminar Series and is involved in multiple professional programs, including the Supporting and Advancing Geoscience Education group, the Association of Environmental Geologists, the Association of Women Geologists and the National Association of Geoscience Teachers.

She also volunteers with the Mount St. Helens Institute and helps lead geology hikes into the crater every summer.