For Elvira (Vera) Teller, lecturer of information systems and operations management at California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH), being an educator means helping students make connections and challenging them to reach their full potential.
Teller, who has been teaching at CSUDH for 10 years, was honored this year with the Catherine H. Jacobs Outstanding Faculty Lecturer Award. The award recognizes faculty who demonstrate excellence in teaching effectiveness, and acknowledges the role non-tenure track lecturers play in student success and the campus community as a whole.
Before moving into teaching, Teller spent over 25 years as director of systems and programming for Safeway, Trader Joe’s, and WellPoint. She passes on those years of experience to her students.
“I have so many industry stories that relate to what we are studying. Students crave information about what it’s like in the real world—no matter what subject you teach,” said Teller. “Sharing these stories is a great way to connect with students and develop trust.”
With their trust, Teller finds it easier to encourage students to take the necessary risks to grow academically. “I’m always impressed by the unique and clever ideas and projects students come up with when put in groups, and it really makes me proud when they are rewarded for them in competition,” said Teller, in reference to her students success during CSUDH’s annual Student Research Day competition. “Showing them the opportunities out there and encouraging them to take risks can be very rewarding for them, and for me.”
To prepare her lectures, Teller syncs her industry knowledge with the latest teaching practices. She is diligent about remaining current in the perpetually evolving field of digital information systems, ensuring that her students receive up-to-date information that will help them get a leg up in their careers.
But Teller doesn’t only focus her efforts on her students’ careers. She is also active in helping new non-tenure track faculty progress in their fields. She is the coordinator of several faculty enrichment courses focused on business communications and information systems for the College of Business Administration and Public Policy.
“We always have exceptional educators coming to campus, but when you’re new it can be difficult to figure out the best way to put your courses together,” Teller said. “Sometimes I’ll keep it simple and just show them how I do it, letting them know they can take my example and copy it, or tweak it how they see fit. I enjoy hearing their unique and creative ideas, too.”
Always seeking to expand the parameters of student learning, Teller also teaches an online class for CSUDH on project management in information systems (undergraduate and master’s program).
“I am both teaching our students online and working on my certification for teaching on the web more broadly, which has really helped me structure my online environment,” she said.
Off campus, Teller serves on the executive committee of Women At Work, a non-profit organization helping people reach their full employment and earnings potential. She has written two career-mapping books for students, “Navigate Your Way to the Career You Want,” and “Check It Off!: Pave Your Way through College to Career.”
Teller holds a Ph.D. and master’s degree in Human and Organization Development from the Fielding Graduate University and an MBA from CSU Los Angeles in business information systems. She holds certifications from UCLA in data communications, microcomputer, and LAN support. She is certified in Project Management Methodologies from the Project Management Institute.
She continues to find new ways to help her students become well-rounded. Her current research is focused on the need for teaching grammar and writing skills in technical college programs, and she is a leading advocate for bringing CSUDH’s Writing Across the Curriculum program to her college.
“I’m writing a paper on this subject, and the data I’ve analyzed shows that students think teaching grammar in technical courses is definitely worthwhile,” said Teller. “This research underlines that while we’re here to teach students computer literacy, we also need to make grammar and writing a priority in their careers.”