By Carrie Click

The same month Colorado Mountain College was named the Top Adventure College by “Elevation Outdoors” magazine, Johann Aberger, associate professor of outdoor education at CMC Spring Valley at Glenwood Springs, learned that students, faculty and staff had chosen him as collegewide full-time Faculty of the Year.

Photo of Johann Aberger and students

CMC’s 2018 collegewide full-time Faculty of the Year Johann Aberger leads a discussion during a mountain orientation trip in the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness. Photo Kate Lapides/Colorado Mountain College

Each year, students, staff and faculty at Colorado Mountain College can nominate one outstanding full-time and one adjunct faculty member from each of the college’s seven campuses and the online learning department. From those honorees, senior administrators then select a collegewide award recipient in each of the two categories, who then represent their peers across all of CMC’s physical and virtual footprint.

It makes sense that Aberger would receive top faculty honors at a college chosen for its adventurous spirit – and curriculum.

“The outdoors are a crucible for learning about ourselves,” said Aberger. “Nature is objective in many ways, and we project onto it our views of the world. Helping students to see this gives them a laboratory to experiment with how they want to be in the world.”

Impact on students

Across its 11 locations, CMC provides students with a firm footing in all aspects of caring for, working and living in the outdoors, with certificates or associate degrees in outdoor education, outdoor recreation leadership, avalanche science, action sports, natural resource management, permaculture, professional fly fishing guide, environmental science, environmental studies, wilderness emergency medical services, ski area operations, ski & snowboard business and related fields, and a bachelor’s degree in sustainability studies.

Aberger has spent the past 15 years on the CMC faculty – and the last three years as a full-time faculty member. His course list reads like a guidebook on how to become an outdoor expert: Backcountry Navigation; Mountain Biking; Technical Canyoneering; Environmental Ethics; and Leadership, Ethics and Social Responsibility, as well as courses in mountain, snow or desert orientation.

“A mentor of mine talks about the importance of teaching students to balance confidence with humility as an outdoor guide and professional,” Aberger said. “I think these lessons are foundational for all humans, and nature is the place we can practice.”

Adrian Fielder, assistant dean of instruction for the Spring Valley and Glenwood campuses, has noted the impact Aberger has on his students.

“The only word that can really do it justice is ‘transformative’ because his students regularly come out of his classes in different forms than they had assumed before they met him,” he said. “This is not because he ‘stamps’ or ‘molds’ them in any way to fit an image he has for them. What he does is help students identify their own values and commitments.”

A balance of classroom, online teaching

To illustrate the college’s balance between classroom and online instruction, this year’s adjunct Faculty of the Year is Dr. Jody Latchaw, who teaches sociology through the college’s online learning department. Previous to teaching online, Latchaw has held positions as program and student services coordinator and center director at the CMC Chaffee County Academic Center at Buena Vista.

Dr. Jody Latchaw

Dr. Jody Latchaw, Colorado Mountain College’s 2018 collegewide adjunct Faculty of the Year, teaches sociology through CMC’s online learning department.

“Jody makes every effort to connect with online students in a personalized way,” said Karen Kaemmerling, assistant dean of instruction in the college’s online learning department.

At a time when educational methods are shifting to technological advances, Kaemmerling notes that Latchaw is able to bridge the gap between screens and electronics – and real people.

“Her positive, kind attitude comes through over the phone, through communication and inside her classes,” Kaemmerling said. “Jody is an asset to both online learning and CMC as a whole.”

College honors campus Faculty of Year

Annually, employees and students at Colorado Mountain College’s seven campuses and its online learning department nominate outstanding faculty members to be considered for Faculty of the Year awards. A committee from each area makes the final determination for each campus.

Out of those, one collegewide adjunct honoree and one collegewide full-time honoree are named.

For 2018, CMC’s full-time campus Faculty of Year are:

  • Benedicte Jeanson, mathematics, Breckenridge and Dillon
  • Darren Brungardt, mathematics, Leadville and Chaffee County
  • Jeremy Hockley, emergency medical services, Steamboat Springs
  • Leticia Burbano de Lara, teacher education, Vail Valley at Edwards
  • Johann Aberger, outdoor education, Spring Valley and Glenwood Springs
  • Jason Shoup, welding, Rifle

For 2018, CMC’s adjunct (part-time) campus Faculty of Year are:

  • Josh Blanchard, communication, Breckenridge and Dillon
  • Beverly Lauchner, culinary, Leadville and Chaffee County
  • Susan Kipfer, English and communications, Steamboat Springs
  • Ron Leach, emergency medical services, Aspen and Carbondale
  • Charis Caldwell, philosophy, Spring Valley and Glenwood Springs
  • Frank Samila, chemistry, Vail Valley at Edwards
  • Melanie Hansen, biology, Rifle
  • Jody Latchaw, sociology, online learning