The roles of Craven Community College (Craven CC) employees vary greatly, ranging from teaching and addressing the financial needs of students to making sure the campus grounds are clean and presentable. A workforce of 500 full- and part-time employees help make the college a successful academic institution, but it is important to recognize individual accomplishments as well.
Winners of the Craven CC 2020 Employee Excellence Awards, which honor the work of faculty, adjunct faculty and staff, were revealed to the recipients in a surprise announcement led by the college’s Executive Leadership Team on May 28. This year’s recipients were Dr. Carmela Magliocchi-Byrnes for Faculty Excellence, Joe Randazzo for Adjunct Faculty Excellence and Donell Bryant for Staff Excellence.
Having quality faculty members is a key part of any successful school and can be the positive force that enhances a student’s college experience. One such faculty member is Byrnes, who has taught chemistry at Craven CC since fall 2012.
As a first-generation immigrant, Byrnes first discovered her love of teaching while helping her Italian parents learn to speak English. Her extensive background in education and years of industry research have made her a chemistry whiz and enthusiast. She credits her supportive family and colleagues for enabling her to achieve excellence.
Some of her accomplishments with the college include creating and developing the online general chemistry course and implementing STEM Saturday, an annual community event that engages families in chemistry activities and experiments. She also has a knack for making students feel comfortable in their own abilities and reassuring them that they can do it.
“I am a big believer in learning from mistakes, and I give students that opportunity in my class,” said Byrnes. “I tell them that no one exam is going to make or break you in my class, and that idea of failing forward—and it’s not even failing. It’s about learning from those opportunities.”
While Byrnes has been part of the Craven CC family for close to a decade, Randazzo just joined as an adjunct faculty member in 2018. He teaches levels 1-4 of the Electrical program at the Volt Center, which is the college’s workforce development training facility dedicated to trades programs. In just a year and a half, he has proven himself to be an expert in his field and an indispensable part of the team.
Upon finding out he won, Randazzo admitted he was very surprised and honored, especially having only been with the college for a short time. He said that he loves coming to work and couldn’t ask for a better group of individuals to work with. He previously worked in positions such as a utility company engineer and government contractor, but he has especially enjoyed his time as an instructor and being able to pass on his knowledge. He forms close bonds with his students and routinely comes in early to demonstrate and explain concepts to those who are struggling.
“I want to see them prosper and give them the tools to be successful,” said Randazzo. “The main thing is that they are able to get out, make a decent living and enjoy life.”
As imperative as it is for Craven CC to employ first-rate faculty members, it’s also crucial to have superb staff who help make sure college operations run smoothly on a daily basis. Bryant, who became the Barbering program manager and instructor five years ago, helped establish the program’s prestige and has turned many students’ lives around in the process.
After overcoming several low points in his life, from raising his younger siblings and being a single father of four to being falsely accused of a crime and serving time, Bryant admitted that he had to do a lot of soul searching to finally feel worthy of teaching. With the help of a supportive family and a newfound appreciation of life, he persevered and is now the proud owner of a barbershop that employs his barbering students. His journey hasn’t been an easy one, but that made his win even more impactful.
“It’s been a ride, but every day I walk through these halls and I come up to the school, I just think back to all that I’ve been through,” said Bryant. “That’s why I respect what I do, I appreciate what I do and I go hard because at one point, I didn’t feel I was worthy. And knowing other people see your worth before you see your worth is something I really appreciate with these students.”
Bryant and Byrnes are now eligible for the State Board of Community Colleges annual Staff of the Year and Excellence in Teaching awards, which are awarded annually to nominees from North Carolina’s 58 community colleges.
This article was originally published in the New Bern Sun Journal on June 17, 2020.