Geology instructor wins prestigious teaching award

WILMINGTON – Known as “Dr. Rocks” around CFCC’s campus, Phil Garwood is one of the most popular and well-known teachers at Cape Fear Community College. Each semester, students fill his classes because of Garwood’s enthusiasm for teaching geology – the subject he has taught at the college for 20 years.

This fall, Garwood was selected as the 2011 recipient of the Marilyn Goodman Anderson Award for Excellence in Teaching. The award is given annually to one teacher at CFCC for outstanding performance in the classroom. He was chosen above 80 other CFCC instructors who were nominated by students and faculty.

According to those who nominated Garwood for the award, students not only learn about geology, but really experience it.

Located on the fourth floor of the McLeod Building on Front St., Garwood’s classroom stands out among the other standard college lecture rooms and computer labs in the building. Much of the classroom is filled with hundreds of artifacts, including fossils, rocks and even petrified wood.

His course is more than teaching students to identify types and characteristics or rocks and fossils. Garwood encourages his students to think critically and solve problems.

One of Garwood’s favorite ongoing projects is to have students bring in a rock they find in the area and figure out what type it is and how old it is. Recently, his students were surprised to learn that one of the “rocks” brought into class turned out to be an egg from a duck-billed dinosaur.

Garwood in active out of the classroom as well.

Over the last few years, he helped start CFCC’s Native American Heritage Festival – a month long event which highlights artifacts and culture of Native Americans. The project began after a couple of Garwood’s students brought in one of the largest collections of Native American arrowheads and spear points. The event started with the collection and has grown to a month-long celebration, which features guest lectures, Native American dance exhibitions, and an art show.

Upon receiving the award, Garwood expressed his appreciation for the support of the college over the years.

“CFCC  is a wonderful place to teach. The faculty are the best of the best. Our administration supports us at all levels and the staff are the hardest working people that I have met,“  Garwood said.

When he started teaching two decades ago, there were only eight students in his class. Today, CFCC’s geology department has grown to become the largest of all N.C. community colleges, Garwood said.

Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Garwood said that he has always had a love for teaching, which he considers the “most important avocation in any society.”

“Teachers spend more time with young people than their parents. Therefore, we had better be strong, sincere and caring in our tasks,” Garwood said.

The Marilyn Goodman Anderson Endowed Award for Excellence in Teaching is awarded by the CFCC Foundation annually to an outstanding faculty member at CFCC.  This prestigious award recognizes all aspects of excellence in teaching that fosters lifelong learning and success.  The following aspects of teaching at Cape Fear Community College were considered in the nomination and selection process:  positive impact on students’ lives, teaching philosophy, and mastery of subject.