Faces of ACC: Terri Scrima: A Professor Who Fuels Her Students With Confidence, Compassion, and Creativity

Terri Scrima, a professor dedicated to making her students be critical thinkers and “good citizens”

Terri Scrima, Faculty and Program Chair

Image via Provided by Terri Scrima

Terri Scrima, Faculty and Program Chair

Donna DeBacco, Reporter

You are in your public speaking class; your heart begins to pound as you watch a fellow student whose name just got called to give their speech slowly push back their chair. Your gaze follows them as they take the agonizing walk to the front of the classroom. You can almost feel the sweat that is likely drenching the inside of their palms. You inhale and exhale in concert with their breathing as their panic sets in and takes hold, convinced you could feel your classmate’s blood pulsing through their veins. They pivot, grab the podium to stabilize their body that has begun to shake like jello. Your heart has reached a crescendo, knowing you are bound to the same fate, and you wonder how you will survive this class.

Seeing students suffer through the rigors of delivering public speeches is not a new experience for Terri Scrima, Faculty and Program Chair at Arapahoe Community College. Yet she is never desensitized by her student’s despair and never tires of helping them overcome their fears.

Scrima arrived on the ACC campus in 2008. She says, “The minute I walked in that door, I felt community, and I still feel it today. We have excellent instructors, a good support system, and we have the best students too.”

Scrima loves teaching and cares deeply for her students. She is committed to helping every student that walks into her class understand their value and uniqueness. She believes that each speech a student gives helps them peel back the layers of who they are. She tries to relax her students’ public speaking anxieties by telling them she is not looking for perfection and believes mistakes are essential to the growth of an individual; mistakes are a crucial part of the process if you learn from them.

According to Scrima, Covid has presented unique instructional challenges. Many of her students are visual learners; helping them navigate D2L for the first time or locating the syllabus is more difficult with remote learning. She says, “Never have I had to use my communication skills more than during this pandemic.” Although she does not believe in giving speeches to her students because she does not want them to be “mini Me’s,” Scrima made an exception and found humor in recording a speech: How to make a lip scrub with sugar and olive oil, to use as an example for her students. Scrima says, “In a way, Covid has made us become better teachers” we have had to learn to use so many new tools to teach. “As teachers, if we are not developing ourselves, learning more, trying new things, then we’re kind of in a rut.”

Scrima said she has noticed many of her public speaking students want to do speeches about mental health as their advocacy. “They’re struggling, I’m sure, and even if they had those situations before, it’s probably added a lot more anxiety to them.”

As a teacher, Scrima helps her students become well-rounded individuals who understand the value of critical thinking and the importance of being “good citizens.” She makes sure they participate in the service-learning program. She says, “Even during the pandemic, I have a modified version of what they can do to help other people. Charity begins at home. You can do kind acts for your family, friends, and co-workers; it’s not that hard.”

If there is one thing Terri Scrima wants her students to know, it’s that she holds dear the lessons they have taught her about life and thanks them for helping her to understand what it means to be “woke.”