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English professor wins STCC yearly honor

When Denise “Daisy” Flaim started as an adjunct professor at Springfield Technical Community College in 2004, she couldn’t wait for the day a full-time position would open at the college.

“I fell madly in love with the school,” said Flaim, of Easthampton. “I wanted to teach full time at STCC so badly.”

Her opportunity to teach full time finally arrived in 2008. Hired as an English professor, Flaim focused on connecting with students to help transform their lives. She demonstrated a dedication and commitment to her craft that did not go unnoticed. STCC Vice President of Academic Affairs Geraldine de Berly on Dec. 4 announced Flaim was the recipient of the Faculty of the Year Award for 2019-2020.

De Berly said the award recognizes Flaim’s teaching techniques to accommodate a variety of learning styles, her efforts to build an inclusive classroom, her work with students outside of the classroom, support letters from colleagues, students and supervisors as well as her service contributions to STCC. “Congratulations to Daisy Flaim,” de Berly said. “Her dedication and commitment to supporting students demonstrate she is well deserving of this award.”

Richard Greco, dean of Liberal and Professional Studies, described Flaim as an excellent teacher who has a unique way of inspiring students. Greco recalled observing Flaim leading a class where she introduced a poem that describes the journey of refugees.

“Students felt comfortable and began sharing their experiences,” Greco said. “One particular student spoke of her journey, and I could not help but notice that over half of the class was tearing up and everyone in the class was on the edge of their seats.”

One of Flaim’s former students, Jenary Merced, now an admissions counselor at STCC, said her professor changed her life and career trajectory. When she started as a student, Merced said she was not confident about her writing ability and was hesitant to take a higher- level English course, but she had to take a college English class to finish her degree.

“Professor Flaim made every student feel like he or she was the smartest person in the room,” Merced said.

Inspired by Flaim, Merced continued her education after STCC and is hoping to one day become a college professor.

Flaim has taught several writing and literature classes at STCC in addition to serving as chairwoman of the Liberal Arts/ General Studies Program for one year. She applies her past work experience, which included professional writing jobs.

Flaim has drawn inspiration from her students over the years. She recalls meeting a student who struggled when he started at STCC. But with hard work and persistence, he ended up receiving an A.

She makes a point to get to know her students outside of the classroom.

“I offer all of my students a conference for every paper we do. I meet with them if they’re distressed,” Flaim said. “I spend most of my work day meeting with them individually. That’s probably the core of what I believe in as an instructor. I learned when I was starting out that students who know a professor outside of the classroom do better not just in that professor’s classroom, but in all of their classes.

“I made a promise to myself that I would try to be that professor who knew people outside of the classroom,” Flaim added.

Due to the pandemic, Flaim has been teaching classes online. STCC this spring will offer online instruction with a mix of on-campus, low-density labs for health and technical programs.

“I think STCC is the most amazing, magical place, because we have an extraordinary mission. We’re serving students who often have been ill served all of their lives by public institutions, and we finally get the chance to get it right and make dreams come true,” Flaim said. “We have students who are swimming upstream against so many odds, and we get to be a part in that story. I’m proud I get to work with people who are part of the mission. I can’t believe how proud I am that I get to be part of that story with students. It’s just the luckiest thing on earth to be part of STCC.”

Flaim earned her master’s degree in liberal studies from Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, and a bachelor’s degree in Honors English with a government minor from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

She lives with her husband, Tom Klitus, a videographer. They have a daughter, Jessie Klitus- Flaim, a recent Clark University graduate in Theatre Arts. Their son, Emmett Flaim, works at Emily Williston Memorial Library in Easthampton. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, he took in-person theater classes at STCC and appeared in STCC theater productions.

Denise “Daisy” Flaim received the STCC Faculty of the Year Award for 2019-2020.

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