It is noon and the cafeteria of the new students center at Finger Lakes Community College is packed with hundreds of students and faculty. Dozens of them were in on our Golden Apple surprise for Dr. Merrill.
Tami Cocuzzi nominated Dr. Merrill. She is a verteran, wife, mother and now two-time FLCC graduate with degrees in Business Administration and Graphic Arts.
"I was just busy raising a family, got married and I just got busy with life. I was always wanting to go to school," Cocuzzi said.
Tami says Dr. Merrill convinced her she could do it.
"It didn't matter what the subject was. I knew Tami wasn't there just to be a sounding board and that makes all the difference between quitting and coming back the next day," she said.
FLCC president Dr. Barbara Risser says when a teacher takes a special interest in a student, it makes all the difference.
"I think that's what you're seeing in this case; that when a faculty member cares the students sense that and when they run into kind of inevitable road blocks they know where to go," she said.
"It's students like Tami who encourage me to do what I do; because they can make it. They spend so much time learning that they can't; one of the biggest things I can do as an instructor is instill that sense of confidence in them and let them know they do have the ability to succeed," Dr. Merrill said.
Dr. Trista Merrill is a News 8 Golden Apple Award winner. You can read the letter we received from Tami nominating her below:
Dear News 8,
I know that this award is usually for primary educators, but Dr. Trista Merrill is one of the most inspiring instructors I've ever known. After being out of school for over 35 years I returned to college to pursue my AAS in Business Administration. The first class I took was English 101 with Dr. Merrill. I was petrified, I wasn't sure that I could complete this. I was old, I no longer knew how to study and wasn't sure that I would be able to keep up. Dr. Merrill wouldn't let me quit. She taught, inspired, encouraged and supported students who ranged from directly out of high school, veterans returning to civilian life, to seasoned adults such as myself. She took a class of students who didn't know each other and transformed us into a class that was more than just an English class.
Dr. Merrill is one of the most innovative, involved, caring professors at FLCC. She is constantly developing new class, is a veteran advocate and many of her former students fondly refer to themselves as "her mnions." Dr. Merrill is an educator who is helping to develop students who strive to learn, do better and achieve what may seem impossible to them. I can think of no one who exemplifies your Golden Apple Award winner than she.
Tami Cocuzzi, FLCC graduate