Dr. Cheri Etheredge honored as Teacher of the Year


Denis Perez / The Advocate

Dr. Cheri Etheredge cares for a simulation mannequin in the Simulation Lab in the Applied Art Building. Etheredge has been teaching in Contra Costa College’s nursing department for 38 years. This semester she was awarded the district’s Teacher of the Year award.

By Denis Perez, Creative Director

Throughout her 38 years teaching in the nursing department at Contra Costa College, Dr. Cheri Etheredge’s iconic efforts have given the program strong leadership, a state-of-the-art Simulation Lab and, most recently, recognition as being the home to the Teacher of the Year.

Hanging on the door of the nursing offices in the Applied Arts Building, a sign congratulates “Teacher of the Year” Etheredge, who serves as the nursing department’s chairperson, for her recognition by the Contra Costa Community College District.

For Etheredge, the award affirms more about the program than it says about her.

“This award is an honor for me, but it has to do more with the department,” she said. The nursing program bolsters a strong nurturing community that breeds knowledgeable students and provides excellent educators.

“We try to model the characteristics we want our students to have. Within the faculty, we are collaborative and supportive of each other. In a hospital, that is how it will be,” Etheredge said.

Academic Senate President Beth Goehring said the Teacher of the Year award is an annual honor that rotates between professors at CCC and its sister colleges, Diablo Valley in Pleasant Hill and Los Medanos in Pittsburg. Nominations for the award come from faculty members and began in February.

By March, a list of nominees is created and sent out to college faculty through email. Etheredge was elected by a faculty vote to be the representative for CCC in 2019.

On April 16, and then in September, Etheredge will be honored at awards dinners in Concord, Goehring said. Her nomination at the District Office also qualifies her as a finalist in the Contra Costa County Office of Education Teacher of the Year award program as well, Goehring said.

County recognition also grants Etheredge and all the Teacher of the years public appreciation when the Oakland A’s host the Boston Red Sox on May 7 at the Oakland Coliseum.

Nursing major Megan Lacorte is in her fourth semester in the nursing program. She sees Etheredge as the perfect example of what a teacher should be like and well-deserving of the award. She said Etheredge has been instrumental to her progress at CCC.

“She (Etheredge) is a big reason many of us are successful. She represents excellence,” Lacorte said.

A class session in the simulation room is a place where mistakes are OK and non-judgmental teaching occurs, Lacorte said.

“Cheri always made sure we weren’t scared of her title — it shows she is humble,” she said.

With a calm tone, Lacorte said Etheredge always gave her nursing tips and taught her to look at the big picture, which made her think critically about things.

“And not textbook stuff, but practical stuff, like dealing with family members and doctors,” she said.

Lacorte, and thousands of students that Etheredge has influenced in her 38 years of teaching, will not be the only ones who benefit from her efforts.

Etheredge single-handedly implemented the simulation program at CCC, nursing program Director Sandra Castillo said.

“(Years ago) Cheri saw there was a shift to including simulation training among nursing students,” Castillo said. “She trained hard and made sure she could pass on every skill available to our students.”

Assistant nursing professor Mary Hernandez said the simulation program at CCC is one of the greatest accomplishments for the program in recent years and its significance to the education of students is beyond measurement.

She said through simulations, brand-new students adapt to the teaching and demonstrate skills quickly. Competitions among students were also thought up by Etheredge.

Students spend a whole day conducting simulation exercises and being judged by faculty and other peers, Hernandez said. Etheredge has laid a phenomenal foundation for students that will study here and professors in the future.

“I am very fortunate to follow in her footsteps and hope to maintain Cheri’s (Etheredge) quality and attention to detail,” she said.

In 2009, Etheredge started a three-month process to make sure the nursing program would offer real world training with simulation equipment including a state-of-the-art simulation room and a fully equipped, 10-bed Nursing Skills Lab.

With the recent move of the nursing department to the Applied Arts Building, that lab exists in what was once the culinary arts dining room. She began with simulation doll training in Texas from the company that manufactures medical training products.

Then, Etheredge was paid to take some time to “get up to speed” and read up on simulation techniques, she said. She later spent a weekend training at Samuel Merritt University in Oakland. Apart from training, Etheredge said she has spoken about simulation use and its connection to nursing education within CCC’s nursing program in conferences.

“The simulation program has put Contra Costa College on the map,” Etheredge said.