Monica Torregrosa, Holyoke Community College Professor of Spanish, is the recipient of this year's Elaine Marieb Faculty Chair for Teaching Excellence.
The award recognizes a full-time faculty member with five or more years of service who exemplifies outstanding classroom teaching. It is named for Elaine Marieb, a former HCC professor of anatomy and physiology, and recognizes the professional development, skills and dedication to student learning that HCC teachers bring to the classroom.
Torregrosa has been teaching at HCC since 1999. The announcement was made Wednesday during a meeting of HCC staff and faculty. As always, the award came as a surprise to the honoree.
"I'm speechless," Torregrosa said during the presentation in HCC's Leslie Phillips Theater. "I'm moved. I just want to say thank you."
Outstanding staff awards were also presented to instructional media specialist Ed Murch and Karen Derouin, director of Financial Aid.
Torregrosa , 52, was born in Concepcion, Chile. She did her undergraduate work in English-Spanish translation at the Universidad de Concepcion and then won a scholarship to study English at Drew University in New Jersey, where she completed her master's. She got a second master's in Spanish literature at the University of New Hampshire.
Eventually she settled in South Windsor, Conn., with her husband Donald Jones, a professor of rhetoric and university honors director at the University of Hartford. They have two children, Paulina, 20, and Peter, 16.
Torregrosa was working as a textbook translator, and on and off as an adjunct teacher at Manchester Community College and the University of Hartford when she saw an ad in the Chronicle of Higher Education for a full-time Spanish professor at HCC.
"Even though working as a translator was intellectually stimulating and profitable, I missed the classroom very much," she said. "I jumped at the opportunity to return to full-time teaching."
Besides teaching Spanish classes, Torregrosa has also been teaching English versions of Spanish literature in recent years. Together with English professor Jim Dutcher, Torregrosa developed a Learning Community class at HCC called "The Immortality of the Revolution: Resistance in Latin America." This spring the course was offered for the first time as an Honors Colloquia and is on the schedule again for the Spring 2014 semester.
"I've always been interested in literature," said Torregrosa. "Growing up in Chile, during the dictatorship, Spanish literature wasn't really Spanish literature. That was considered too subversive."
This semester Torregrosa led a book discussion series on Latin American literature at the Storrs Library in Longmeadow.
As Marieb Faculty chair, Torregrosa will lead the graduation procession of faculty, staff and students into the tent on O'Connell Field at HCC's 66th Commencement June 1.
Photos: (Left) Prof. Monica Torregrosa talks during a class. (Right) Torregrosa, right, and English professor Jim Dutcher, left, welcomed poet Martin Espada as a guest to their class this semester.