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ACC Announces Winners of League Excellence Award

Alvin Community College faculty members honored Biology instructor Brian Berger and Paralegal instructor John J. Murray with the 2021 League of Innovation Excellence Award.

The League Excellence Award recognizes outstanding contributions and leadership by community college faculty and staff. Recipients are recognized in a series of activities and promotions.

“I am delighted to see the League’s Excellence Awards recognize these outstanding ACC faculty,” ACC President Dr. Robert J. Exley said. “The League for Innovation in the Community College was founded to specifically foster and support excellence.”

Berger began teaching at ACC in 2015. Being name a recipient of the award is an honor especially with the past year that was complicated with restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

“Our past year is sort of like Bilbo Baggin's story ‘There and Back Again,’ we went from teaching in person to a remote synchronous/asynchronous format and have returned to the in-person world again,” Berger said. “We have had to make adjustments to all of our instructional methods to meet the changes needed, and as a collective group, our faculty have risen to the challenges to provide the best instruction possible. To have been nominated by my colleagues tells me that the methods of instruction are being noticed.  It means that other faculty members on campus value the work that I have done in the classroom to support my students and are looking to me for ideas about instruction.  It is a high honor and I hope to continue to represent my colleagues at ACC going forward.”

In the nomination letter, instructors said Berger approaches his courses with a creativity with virtual labs that keeps his students engaged. Berger has also been involved with the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society, serving as co-advisor for the ACC Mu Upsilon chapter.

“He has found several free resources with simulations online and created excellent question sets helping students understand difficult concepts for the to visualize,” the nomination states.

Berger chose to be an instructor after an experience serving as a tutor when he helped a fellow student in college on organic chemistry.

“I ‘tapped in’ so to speak and helped explain the problem in more detail and helped to better break down what the question was asking for,” Berger said. “It was the first time I had done this kind of tutoring, and I really liked the expression the student had getting help. While it would take five years before I did officially start teaching after that moment, this first interaction helped lay the foundation for my future as a Chemistry instructor.”

Murray first joined the ACC faculty in October 2020 after working a lawyer and said he felt compelled to become an instructor. “I walked away from being an attorney and moved across the country based on faith that leading the ACC Paralegal Program was what I was supposed to do. My wife, Lana, and our boxer, Chloe, remained in Illinois for eight months while we transitioned our lives to Texas and I chased this dream.”

“​I am honored and humbled to be the recipient of this terrific award,” he said. “Receiving this award means so much more than just recognition for me. It tells the story of sacrifice by my family and friends. It is shared with so many at ACC who helped me make the Paralegal Program the best it can be this last year. Finally, it is validation for our paralegal students that their program is improving every day.”

Faculty members who nominated Murray said, “John Murray never hesitates to help a fellow faculty member. His dedication to ACC, his peers, and students can be seen in his workshops for online learning.”

Murray said the receiving the award was especially humbling because it was decided upon by his colleagues.

“There are so many terrific educators and leaders at ACC,” he said. “Earning their respect and receiving their nomination for this award makes it very special.”

Murray has had the desire to become an educator that stems from his first experiences as a tennis coach.

“​I have always loved teaching. At a very young age, I taught group and private tennis lessons,” Murray said. “There, I learned how to encourage and motivate people even when they are struggling. During college, I was honored to be selected as a TA by a Professor I learned so much from and looked at as a mentor. While my career in the law led me to different positions, I always enjoyed my time teaching at the United States Army Military Police School and as an Adjunct at Columbia College the best. Now, I can combine all my legal and leadership experience with teaching to provide the best program possible.”