Near-death experience in college results in a dedication to serving God.
By Raven Arriaga
When a professor receives an award, the whole college benefits, English Professor Liz Ann Aguilar said.
Aguilar received the Association of Community College Trustees 2016 Western Regional Faculty Member Award.
This award is given annually to one community college faculty member in each region who has served the community and made an impact on students.
Aguilar was nominated by college President Robert Vela and Anna Bustamante, then-chair of the Alamo Colleges board of trustees.
“I was very surprised and honored with the nomination,” she said Aug. 30.
She was surprised to receive notification by email May 18 because she did not know she had been nominated.
Aguilar has been teaching for 21 years. She started teaching English at this college as an adjunct in fall 1995 and was hired as a full-time faculty member in 1997.
She intended to major in biology and apply to medical school when she was a student at St. Mary’s University, but a near-death experience changed her mind.
“I was originally a declared biology major up until my senior year at St. Mary’s University,” she said.
During her senior year she transitioned into a dual major.
Her English adviser, Mary Jackson, recommended she apply for a new program that was a transitioning bachelor’s to master’s program in English.
“She wanted me to apply to graduate school, and I was thinking I was going to be applying to medical school in a year or two,” she said.
While participating in her cousin’s wedding in California, Aguilar was involved in a traumatic car accident that changed her life goals.
“I had a near death experience, and that experience made me think a lot about what I was actually going to do in life,” she said.
While she was driving to her cousin’s wedding rehearsal with two cousins, their car experienced an electrical mishap that caused it to catch fire.
“There was some electrical problem associated with the coolant system and it starts burning,” she said.
When she came back to San Antonio, she realized that she should apply to graduate school because it was a part of her plan.
“If this is truly God’s direction, he’s going to open doors, and that’s a path I’m going to take, and I ended up filling out that application,” she said.
She said that even though she had dedicated her life to serving God, her career choice was something she was doing for herself.
“I told God, everything I’ve done in life has always been submitted to you, and it was sort of revealed to me in that instant, everything but my career,” she said.
This led her to believe that becoming a teacher is what God wanted her to do, she said.
Aguilar’s accomplishments during her teaching career made her eligible for this award.
She has been part of the Hispanic Heritage Committee and Women’s History Week.
In the English department, she serves on the ENGL 1302 committee and is active in the 4DX writing center team, which helps bring more attention to writing center from the faculty.
Recently, she has been invited to help improve writing for STEM students.
Aguilar is president-elect of the Texas Community College Teachers Association.
“One of the primary roles that TCCTA is a part of is to actually be the faculty member’s voice with the legislators,” she said.
Mike Burton, chair of English, Education, Humanities and Journalism-Photography, said, “Dr. Aguilar is one of the many stars of the English department at this college.”
Aguilar believes that receiving this award is a reflection on this college and the people who surround her.
“I feel like it’s a gift that I am sharing because it’s not about me: It’s about everyone who’s influenced or been a part of my life while I’ve been teaching here,” she said.