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Faces of STLCC

Forest Park Campus

Radiologic Tech's Sally Polta, Teacher of the Year at Forest Park, connects with students

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When 39 Radiologic Technology students graduated July 13, they presented associate professor Sally Polta with a big basket of chocolate candy bars, and a T-shirt with “Got Chocolate?” printed on it. As she accepted the gifts with hugs and a big grin, her connection with the students was obvious.

Polta, whose respected skills as a teacher earned her a prestigious honor this past spring – Teacher of the Year at STLCC-Forest Park, is not one to toot her own horn, but others like to do it for her. The annual award is given for teaching excellence, as judged by her peers and students.

When President Cyndi Hess and Vice President of Academic Affairs Tracy Hall surprised Polta in her classroom to give her the good news, she received cheers and a standing ovation from her students. At the Staff Recognition and Services Awards Program May 3, President Hess mentioned the students’ reaction when she officially gave Polta her award, which included a $500 prize, in addition to flowers and balloons.

A faculty member since 2005, Polta is a 1992 graduate of the STLCC Radiologic Technology program. A broken arm in third grade was the spark for her eventual career path.

“I thought it might be something I’d like to do,” she said. Prior jobs include working as an executive secretary at The May Company, in outpatient care at DePaul Hospital, and as a supervisor for mammograms, bone density tests, and ultra sounds at a doctor’s office.

But teaching is where she found her true calling. “I love it. Even when I was in an office, I was always training people, I like to educate people about their jobs,” she said.

“The biggest challenge today is trying to teach to so many different generations. What works for one, doesn’t work for everyone, so you have to approach it from a couple different angles,” she said.

Polta participates in a number of recruitment activities on and off campus, in professional development activities, and reviews course content annually to make sure information is current and relevant.

For course work, she developed a cross-sectional anatomy CD and Power Point presentation of radiographic images that are student-friendly. She incorporates a service learning project in her XRT: 122 Radiographic Image Evaluation II course during the fall semesters that benefits the community. In addition to Image Evaluation I and II, and Pathology, she oversees students’ clinical work in the St. Louis area.

She also maintains the display case outside of A-413 with informative student class projects. She consistently receives high marks on student evaluation forms, in addition to numerous letters of praise from students that appreciate her time and efforts.

The Radiologic Technology faculty works together as a tight unit, she noted. “We’re all very close,” she said.

The program is strong at Forest Park, with 40 students accepted for the two-year associate degree. “It just offers wonderful advantages for everybody, an education at a great price,” she said.

Polta and her husband of 11 years, John, live in St. Charles. She has a son, 26, who teaches abroad, and a daughter, 29, who is expecting a child in November, her first grandchild. She also has three stepchildren.

The Teacher of the Year honor has yet to sink in, she said. “It makes you want to try even harder. I’m still in shock.”

By: Lynn Venhaus