CGCC rewards excellence in 2012

Two outstanding members of the Columbia Gorge Community College faculty and staff have netted awards of excellence for the 2011-12 school year. Both share a dedication and belief in their work that others recognize as extraordinary.

Standing over a fuming Bunsen burner might sound like the work of a mad scientist, but for Rob Kovacich, it’s all in a days work as CGCC’s primary chemistry instructor. Kovacich’s passion for science and his high student expectations have earned him respect from a wide variety of nominators.

Jean Ewald, pre-college instructional assistant, brings calm to the testing room for teens and adults who opt to take their G.E.D. exam. With 28 years on the job, Ewald is able to transmit confidence to those who seek her help. Her stable, consistent belief in the power of education to change student’s lives is at the heart of her staff recognition.

The annual CGCC Award of Excellence program provides the staff and faculty winners with a $500 cash award along with a presentation during CGCC graduation ceremonies.

For both Kovacich and Ewald, the award came as an unexpected, but welcome pat on the back. Ewald and Kovacich were honored this year and their names will now be inscribed on the perpetual plaques at the college.

“She’s the glue that holds the whole program together,” said Ewald’s supervisor Dave Mason, director of pre-college, humanities, social sciences and human services at CGCC.

“It couldn’t have gone to a nicer person. She is so deserving. She quietly goes about her job but she excels at everything and is so pleasant,” said fellow longtime staff assistant Charlotte Lavendar.

“I love testing. I know it sounds strange that you love giving a test but it’s the culmination of the students’ goal,” said Ewald when asked about her career. “I’m usually the first contact with the students, either on the phone or when they come in, so you see sometimes what it takes for them to walk in the door. Then I’m at the end when they are done. I get to share that success with them.”

Ewald received her bachelor’s degree in secretarial science from Oregon State University. She started out at CGCC teaching typing, shorthand and accounting.

Kovacich earned his master’s degree in chemistry at Oregon State University after completing a bachelor’s degree in education at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania.

“Rob doesn’t just teach chemistry; he has been a key person in the development of our distance learning program at CGCC,” said supervisor Dr. Susan Wolff, former chief academic officer for CGCC. “But it is also his spirit that is so remarkable.”

That spirit becomes evident when you have a moment to hear the philosophy behind Kovacich’s teaching.

“The awesome wind in the Gorge; the terrible clay balls on the trails of Post Canyon; the pool of cherry rinse water at exit 85 in The Dalles; it is all chemistry,” said Kovacich when asked about his choice of career.

“You are a bag of chemicals undergoing constant reaction. I see the atoms around us and I want my students to also see those atoms.

“My philosophy is simple: Show the students a path, give them the tools to travel that path, then get out of the way,” said Kovacich. “I think I am a bit hated for my favorite response to most questions; ‘No, I won’t answer that, because you can figure that out on your own. Come tell me what you learned once you do.’”

It may be that Ewald and Kovacich represent important ends of the spectrum to a successful college experience — being welcomed and handled with care all the while learning how to discover and then rely on your own new found knowledge.

For Ewald and Kovacich, the award is an acknowledgement of the wide variety of educational styles that bring success to each student at the college.

For more information on the Awards of Excellence contact Sara Rinearson at 541-506-6151 or

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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