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Danielle DuCharme Named Waubonsee Outstanding Faculty Member
After only a few seconds inside of Danielle DuCharme’s office on the first floor of the Science Building, it’s easy to see why the Associate Professor of Biology was selected as the Waubonsee Community College 2016 Outstanding Faculty Member.
Her walls are covered in illustrated posters – made by students – of various biology topics. Also, it’s impossible to miss the insects. Framed displays of every type of insect are on every surface. These are signs of the passion that for DuCharme, began as a child and was fostered throughout adulthood as she studied biology, entomology and science education.
In addition to her reputation as an expert in her field and an advocate for innovative teaching in science, biology and STEM, the 1998 Illinois Math and Science Academy graduate also demonstrates her passion for these studies through her leadership and involvement in many professional and community organizations dedicated to science education.
Her innovation in instruction is evident through her many curriculum contributions, including working as a Co-Principal Investigator for the National Science Foundation STEM Scholarship program, creating sustainability courses, teaching graduate courses through Aurora University in partnership with Waubonsee’s Center for Teaching Learning and Technology (CTLT), creating a lab textbook for Biology 101, writing instructor’ guides, and organizing conferences.
A fixture in the popular Waubonsee summer camps, DuCharme has taught both the Science Xplosion and Bugology camps through community education, while also teaching summer courses. She also has worked on countless college committees, and spoken to and advised student groups.
DuCharme began working as a full-time instructor at Waubonsee in 2007. Since then, colleagues say she has distinguished herself in the areas of instructional effectiveness, contributions to the college and commitment to ongoing professional development.
“In the department we joke about how Dani is on or has been on every committee the college offers,” said Justin Hoshaw, Waubonsee Assistant Professor of Biology. “Her dedication is a great inspiration.”
Colleagues say DuCharme is almost always teaching or leading a class. Among those, she designed and ran a course called “Engage the Community College Learner,” which allowed faculty to learn different techniques to test in their own classrooms.
It was that freedom to innovate that – in part – led DuCharme to a career at Waubonsee. After finishing a bachelor’s degree in biology from Loyola, and then a master’s in entomology and science education at University of California Davis, she returned to her home state of Illinois to live with a friend, who encouraged her to apply for an open teaching position at Waubonsee.
“I just feel like no one says no here, in a good way,” she said. “There’s just a lot of support and encouragement and very little naysaying.”
DuCharme also cites the college’s state of the art labs and equipment, students who are passionate and curious, and colleagues who are “rock stars,” as other reasons why she hopes to stay at Waubonsee for a long time – at least until the time capsule in her building can be opened in 40 years, she jokes.
“When I say this is the best job in the world, I mean it,” she said. “I didn’t realize until I got here how rare these jobs are, and there are so many benefits to having this beautiful campus.”
DuCharme is known for taking her students into the waters of the Blackberry Creek on Sugar Grove’s campus or looking for frogs at the Plano Campus. She said she doesn’t have to look far for educational field trips. That energy and sense of adventure are contagious, colleagues say.
“Besides everything else, I think her never ending energy and genuinely happy spirit are what most people will pick up on the minute they meet her,” Hoshaw said. “She is a joy to be around all the time and I know students enjoy her classes because of this energy, and then her excitement about science, biology and insects is going to capture the attention of everyone in the class.”