A Legacy of Service and Heart for Students

A longstanding tradition at Rock Valley College is to award the title Faculty of the Year annually.

Mrs. Gilbert stands with Dr. Spearman and Trustee Cudia

Mrs. Gilbert stands center wearing her Faculty of the Year medallion with RVC President Dr. Spearman (left) and RVC Board Chair Gloria Cudia (right)

Nominations are accepted from students and faculty input before the faculty committee selects the recipient. RVC proudly announces Theresa Paulette Gilbert as the 2024 Faculty of the Year for her excellence in and out of the classroom.

Dr. Julie Hernandez, RVC Professor of Psychology, presented the award to a very surprised Mrs. Gilbert at the RVC Professional Development Day.

As Mrs. Gilbert took the stage, she said, “It is incredible that I didn’t know. It is incredible that you got my family here. And I had no clue that I have seen many of you in the halls, and you never let on.”

I am so thankful that I was given the opportunity to join the college and have a career here. I can’t imagine not having the opportunity to meet a new group of students each semester. My students give me purpose.

As one student describes her, “A great professor who is very caring and passionate about what she teaches. It shows every day in the classroom and also outside of the classroom. Whenever you need help or just a listening ear- she is there!”

Mrs. Gilbert has been a professor in the RVC English department for three decades. She takes advantage of many opportunities to add to her knowledge of her discipline and issues for which she is passionate. She approaches her classes with a heart for continuous process improvement – always updating and improving her course content. And, she is known to mentor students during their time at RVC and beyond.

“This is my first year at RVC, and she’s been so helpful with deadlines, understanding that we have other classes and different schedules. She always explains things well and makes sure we have the proper materials for everything we need to succeed,” said a student.

Outside the classroom, Mrs. Gilbert is committed to service at the college and in the community. She serves on several college committees, including Promoting an Inclusive Community, the Black History and Culture Committee, and the Supplemental Professional Development Funds Committee. Mrs. Gilbert serves as the advisor of the Black Student Union and initiated the creation of and continues to help organize the Sankofa ceremony to honor African-American graduates for RVC.

In the community, Mrs. Gilbert has demonstrated a legacy of service as an active member of numerous organizations, including the American Association of University Women, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the League of Women Voters of Rockford, the Ethnic Heritage Museum, and the YWCA. She also supports her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, and is a member of Pilgrim Baptist Church.

Mrs. Gilbert has been recognized with several awards for her outstanding service. In 2021, she was honored with the YWCA Women of Distinction Racial Justice Award. The following year, she became the first recipient of the RVC Distinguished Service to Peace and Justice Award, a testament to her profound impact on the college and the community, leading to the award being named after her. In 2023, she was recognized as a Women Who Lead – The Spirit of Education Honoree.

“I feel grateful. I feel so very grateful that I have had the opportunity to impact lives in a good and positive and long-term way. In turn, those students have impacted my life,” said Mrs. Gilbert.

One of her student nominations summed it up for us, “She is a very loving teacher who cares about you and understands students.”