Geography Professor Aline Gregorio is a 2020 Orange County Teacher of the Year! This regional honor grew from her selection as the 2019 Fullerton College Teacher of the Year, which she earned by being nominated by numerous students and alumni who admire her passion for educating students about geography and environmental issues, and translating that knowledge into action within their local community and beyond.
A group from the Orange County Department of Education along with NOCCCD’s Chancellor Dr. Cheryl Marshall and President Greg Schulz surprised Gregorio with the regional award on May 1.
“We’re here to recognize professor Gregorio as the top community college professor in Orange County,” said Orange County Superintendent of Schools Al Mijares when he presented the award to Gregorio. “And she’s one of six teachers that will be recognized here in Orange County. It’s a fantastic thing and I want to commend you.”
The county contingency drove a yellow school bus all over Orange County that day to surprise five additional educators who achieved this celebrated award. Gregorio’s surprise visit occurred while she was administering a test to her students. True to the reasons why she earned these prestigious awards, amid the cameras and well-wishers, she paused to tell her students to take a deep breath and refocus on their exam.
“I’m just so overwhelmed with emotion,” said Gregorio upon accepting the shiny red apple award. “I love my job and I love my students; so, just thank you. I appreciate this.”
Since arriving to Fullerton College in 2016, Gregorio has co-founded a Sustainability Committee and has helped build an alliance of two student clubs on campus – Fullerton College United, which focuses on empowering undocumented students through unity and education, and Students for Equitable Sustainability, a group dedicated to environmental and social justice advocacy.
“Gregorio’s passion goes beyond her classroom,” according to a student nomination statement. “She inspired me to take action in my local community and re-sparked my passion for the environment through geography.”
Another nomination praised Gregorio for her ability to engage students through powerful topics in her lectures and create a welcoming and inclusive space for students to understand and engage in those topics.
“She speaks in a measured cadence, making it easy for students to understand the points she is making. She includes appropriate pauses for students to absorb, and when she wants to emphasize a point, she speaks more slowly and repeats her point. I would rate her pedagogy and classroom demeanor as excellent,” another nomination stated.
The Fullerton College Teacher of the Year is selected by a committee comprised of members from Associated Students and Faculty Senate. Gregorio will be honored during a Teacher of the Year reception in May along with four additional Teacher of the Year finalists. The finalists are Elisabeth Burke, Danielle Fouquette, Callista Lee and Michelle Loy.
The recognition also advanced Gregorio to the county-level Teacher of the Year.
Gregorio’s nominations highlighted her effective delivery of lecture topics in her geography courses, her dedication to making Fullerton College more sustainable and eco-friendly, and her investment to inspiring and empowering students with one-on-one support.
“She sets the prime example for students on how to practice what you preach,” one nomination stated. “Her teaching not only solidified my love for geography as a discipline, but more so, has inspired me to want to become a teacher and do for those as she has done for me.”
Gregorio’s teaching philosophy is derived from her roots and experiences growing up in Brazil and migrating to the United States to achieve her educational goals. Global awareness and a heightened understanding of the world through her personal story drives many of the core topics discussed in her geography courses.
Students are taught that because people are connected to other places, all decisions have far reaching consequences. She teaches students basic geo-literacy and engages them in rational processes by designing opportunities for students to become and remain engaged in stimulating topics such as climate change, migration, deforestation, and globalization through critical thinking discussions and impressionable learning moments.
“In sum, my teaching philosophy is: make it count. What we do matters,” Gregorio said. “The humans in our lives today are only here for a glimpse of time, and the world needs this time to be one of positive change; that change begins in a student’s classroom, where every day counts.”
In addition to classroom instruction, Gregorio is co-founder and co-chair of the Sustainability Committee, advisor for FC United and Students for Equitable Sustainability (SES), a member of the Program Review Committee, and has served as an organizer and contributor of many campus-wide events including three Earth Day Symposiums, and several SES lecture series events.