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“Life is urgent”

Photo courtesy Andrew Trumbore.

A good professor can prepare college students for their future career, but a great professor can make students think about what their future holds.

That’s what NCC English professor Dr. Javiar Avila brings to the classroom every time he faces a group of young college students. He talks to his students about the tough subjects that some people might avoid.

Avila is a lecture-style teacher, but he uses comedy to keep his students involved. He says his undergrad French teacher was very animated when in front of the class, and his second-year Spanish teacher was a great source of wisdom. He took these two teaching styles and blended them to create his own unique teaching style.

Avila credits his mother, who was a teacher for 36 years, for inspiring him to be a teacher too.

“Every now and then, if I had a day off and she didn’t, I would go and watch her teach,” he said.

Avila graduated from a private military school in Puerto Rico, but his mom taught public school. He admired the way his mother could reach kids from a much different background than himself.

The discipline that private school taught Avila helped him when it came to schedules and writing.

Avila has written 13 books, 10 of which have been published. His psychological thriller “Different,” was turned into a full-length film, “Miente”

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Avila said of the movie making process.

After getting his undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of Puerto Rico, Avila received his doctorate from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He spent eight years as a professor at the University of Puerto Rico before moving to Pennsylvania. For the past 10 years, he has taught English at NCC.

Many students who take Avila’s class have a positive experience. NCC student Beth Wenson says Avila is a fair teacher. She likes how he notices the differences in each student’s learning abilities, which she says works best for her.

Avila’s focus on in-class discussion over take-home work is another positive for Wenson.

“There are no stupid questions or answers,” she said.

With 18 years of experience, Avila has run into some very memorable students.

Avila says one student at the University of Puerto Rico had a significant impact on him. The student was from an environment where people seeking higher education were hounded for being “better than them.”

Avila had to make an extra copy of the book for the student to keep at home while retaining the original copy so the student wasn’t seen carrying it through his neighborhood.

Another student Avila remembers took his class four times, each time disappearing by the end of the semester, causing him to fail. The fourth time, Avila was determined to get the student through the class. Once he saw the pattern starting again, he called and texted him non-stop until he learned the truth. The student was the provider for the house, and before he could finish the semester, something would come along that caused him to have to provide for the family first.
“Life is urgent,” Avila says is his main philosophy for life.”There is no better time than now. It doesn’t mean you have to be perfect now, it is about excellence now.”

On November 19, Avila was named the Pennsylvania Professor of the Year in Washington D.C. He was awarded by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Avila was nominated by his fellow faculty members and former students.

“It’s great that there is an institution that recognizes the importance of education,” Avila said when asked about what this honor meant to him. “It’s a wonderful statement regarding the quality of teaching at community colleges across the nation.”