Educator of the Year in Ontario shares passion for science with students

Cindy Feibert, a science instructor at Treasure Valley Community College, has been selected as Educator of the Year for 2022 by the Ontario Area Chamber of Commerce. She is pictured in her class lab. (The Enterprise/LES ZAITZ)

ONTARIO -– Cindy Feibert spent years tracking down killers in the forests of California and Brazil.

She hunted down tree-killing diseases and insects with scientific research tapping her studies in forest pathology.

Feibert now shares her passion for science and research with students at Treasure Valley Community College, where she leads the Science Department and is an instructor.

She works to imbue students with her scientific curiosity.

“I love science,” said Feibert. “What I really want is to really try to get them to love science.”

She succeeds at that, according to Dana Young, TVCC president.

It was Young’s nomination that led Feibert’s recognition this month as Educator of the Year by the Ontario Area Chamber of Commerce.

“In addition to being an excellent teacher, she is a student-advocate, a compassionate adviser and a teacher who is passionate about increasing real-world learning opportunities for students,” Young wrote.

Students will have to hurry to take advantage of Feibert’s skills because she is retiring in June.

She started teaching at TVCC part-time in 1998 and joined the faculty full time in 2008.

Feibert has spent a lifetime in the woods, growing up in California.

“My father loved the outdoors. We hiked in the Sierra Nevada a lot when I was young,” she said. “I just loved nature around me.”

She graduated from the University of California-Berkley in 1979 and she was inspired by a professor to build on her interest in forest pathology. She was part of a study team researching microorganisms that attack plants. In particular, she researched a disease killing white firs.

Feibert then joined a research team that included her future husband to study a forest in Brazil. She focused on one species that insects attacked.

“I was looking at the chemistry of the plants, seeing what compounds protected the plants from getting attacked,” she said.

As a graduate student, she got a taste of teaching.

She subsequently returned to Brazil – married to Erik Feibert and with two children – to manage a tree farm.

“We both love the outdoors,” she said. “We both knew biology. It was sort of an adventure for two years.”

They had no electricity, running a generator at night. They had to drive to a nearby small town to make a phone call.

“I tell my daughters if they ever do that with their babies, I would just die,” Feibert said.

They eventually ended up in Malheur County when her husband was employed at the Malheur Experiment Station of the OSU Extension Service. He is a senior faculty research assistant.

That adventure was 32 years ago.

She worked at the experiment station and then took an opening to teach part-time at TVCC’s Caldwell campus before shifting to the main campus and full-time teaching.

“I love the students,” Feibert said. “I love teaching students. I love the diversity of community college students.”

She likes to get students into the lab, where they can get their hands-on experiments. She also takes them on field trips to turn theory into reality.

“It takes a lot of energy to be a good teacher,” said Feibert, who exuded such energy during an interview. “You’re always re-evaluating what you are doing. If students come up and talk to me about what I’m telling them, that’s when I know it’s working. If they are on their cell phone and not listening, it’s not working.”

Feibert said students are more distracted these days.

“Getting students to focus is a little more difficult,” she said. “I see them struggle because they’re trying to balance work and school. Economically, it is so hard for them.”

When she’s not teaching, Feibert plays French horn and trumpet in TVCC’s symphony and jazz band. She still loves to get outdoors, such as exploring the Owyhees.

After retiring, Feibert intends to continue working with high school and middle school students, to draw them into science labs.

“We will miss the professionalism, dedication and compassion she brings to her students and her work,” Young said in her nomination.

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