Spotlight Series: Suzel Molina
October 16, 2020
As the world has become increasingly digital, Palo Alto College’s faculty has been introducing technological innovations in the classroom for years to provide students with virtual tools to help them be successful in college and beyond.
Suzel Molina, professor of teaching at Palo Alto College, was recently recognized for how she has embraced remote learning, prepared students for the workforce, and supported student success in an ever-evolving educational landscape. On Oct. 13, during a virtual unveiling, she was announced as a Canvas Educator of the Year.
“I am so honored to receive this award from Canvas,” said Molina. “I am also humbled to be recognized for doing what I love – teaching. I am better because of my students, and I am surrounded by amazing colleagues. What more could I ask for?”
Molina played a key role in piloting and ePortfolio platform, “Porfolium” and scaling its use across the College. Using this tool allows students to showcase their achievements and set goals that extend beyond the classroom. This purposeful technology encourages students to drive their own educational journeys as they see their classroom knowledge and marketable skills stack up.
“We are retaining more students because they want to finish that portfolio at the end of the semester,” said Molina.
As students go about their college career and beyond, they can use their ePortfolio to connect with local and national workforce opportunities, civic engagement, mentorship, and more.
Molina takes a relationship-first approach with her students – first building trust and understanding their goals and perspectives, then adjusting the content to meet students where they are so they can get where they want to be.
“I want to inspire my students to trust themselves, be open-minded, and embrace curiosity. I want them to question the purpose of human emotion, thought, and behavior,” said Molina. “I want to tell my students where to look, but I don’t want to tell them what to see.”
Molina started teaching at Palo Alto College in 1990, where she met her mentor, the late Anita Carrejo-Soliz, to whom she dedicates this award.
“Anita passed away October of last year, and it was a great loss for the PAC family. She was kind, patient, humble, and a Canvas zealot,” said Molina. “Anita also had a vision for our college – to make textbooks affordable for students and to implement portfolios so students could showcase their works. She helped me realize the importance of being open to new initiatives.”
As Molina reflects on her 36 years as an educator, she recalls the impact of growing up in a household where education was of high importance.
“My parents were my first teachers. They believed sharing love and experiences were greater than nice gifts,” said Molina. “My mom was the first person to attend college in her family, and she set the standard for her sisters and brother. We [Molina and her sister] were encouraged to read at an early age – libraries with free books became like Christmas every two weeks.”
In addition to helping students bridge the gap between the classroom and their future careers, Molina has encouraged faculty to seek online certification and has personally mentored them. To build faculty confidence in a virtual classroom setting, she also built a series of Canvas templates to share with an emphasis on academic and student support resources for students.
Molina’s passion for students and teaching has led to innovation in the classroom. She is just one of many first-rate faculty members at the College.
“My years as an educator have been amazing – so many great colleagues and even more incredible students,” said Molina. “I am a better person and truly blessed because of those who have touched my life.”