Del Mar College announces recipient of 2021 Dr. Aileen Creighton Award for Teaching Excellence

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Professor of Child Development/Early Childhood Benita Flores-Muñoz selected by peers for coveted DMC recognition  

Once upon a time ... that’s how many childhood stories begin and how Benita Flores-Muñoz’s personal summary starts in the nomination packet submitted for Del Mar College’s prestigious faculty award, the Dr. Aileen Creighton Award for Teaching Excellence The professor and program director creates “happily ever afters” by preparing DMC Child Development/Early Childhood majors to work with young children as professionals in the childcare industry.   

Professor of Child Development/Early Childhood Benita Flores-Muñoz selected by peers for coveted DMC recognition

During the College’s virtual fall convocation held today, Aug. 23, Flores-Muñoz was announced as the 2021 Creighton Award recipient, making her the 20th faculty member to receive the recognition.  

“To win this award is such a validation; it’s the biggest pat in the back I could ever receive” said Flores-Muñoz, who is a faculty member in the Kinesiology and Education Department. “I know we all went above and beyond [this past year], and I really wish that some of my peers could have this experience as well.”  

Established in 2002, DMC named the award in honor of the late Dr. Aileen Creighton, who was dean emeritus of the Arts and Sciences Division. The award represents the educator’s legacy as a “master teacher” during her 41-year career at the College and serves as the benchmark faculty must emulate to receive the honor. Known for her dedication to students and higher education, Dr. Creighton’s example provides inspiration to other educators.  

Of her own teaching philosophy, Flores-Muñoz said, “As I have grown as an educator, I have also seen that to be good early childhood professionals, they [students] also have to be successful in their general academic courses and need to experience service learning opportunities that benefit children and families. Knowledge in child development, academics, and service to others creates a workforce-ready individual.”  

Flores-Muñoz’s supporters also all believe that she lives up to the standards required to receive the Creighton Award, whether she’s teaching students in the classroom or online or developing initiatives and building enthusiasm through community connections and interaction.   

Program peer Dr. Amy Mintz, professor of Child Development/Early Childhood, wrote, “One of Benita’s most remarkable traits as an educator is her willingness to help students understand the content as evidenced by her wide range of teaching techniques, which includes hands-on experiences, thoughtful discussions, anecdotal stories and situations that allow students to relate to the material. She also uses technology to support student inquiries and creates a carefully curated classroom environment comfortable for student learning.”  

Kinesiology and Education Department chair Dr. Judi Phillips, who nominated Flores-Muñoz for the Creighton Award, added, “Benita is extremely dedicated and focused on being a student-centered teacher.” 

Former students noted that Flores-Muñoz’s devotion toward preparing them for careers in the early childhood/child development field. One student wrote, “Mrs. Muñoz always ensures that her students experience success by challenging their abilities to encourage growth and development. Her students are always treated with great dignity and respect and, as a result, she has excellent rapport with them.” 

Flores-Muñoz shared that meeting the needs of students is her first and most important priority to prepare them for work with young children, families and professionals by ensuring students reflect the highest standards in the field. “I have taught in all modalities: face-to-face, online, hybrid and now Hy-Flex (combining an online class with a virtual class meeting).” She added, “When I teach face-to-face, I tend to balance lecture with small group activities and demonstrations to work toward a common goal as an effective team member, which is a skill they will need when they get a job.” 

As one of her key accomplishments, Flores-Muñoz led the College’s Child Development/Early Childhood Program to national accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). She now serves on the NAEYC Commission on the Accreditation of Early Childhood Higher Education Programs.  

Outside the classroom, Flores-Muñoz fills several other roles at the College, including serving as the Gender Equity Coordinator for the Carl D. Perkins grant to recruit nontraditional students into Career and Tech Ed programs, as a certified advisor with the Project SENDA (Students Engaged in Direct Advising) initiative and taking on additional advising responsibilities. Other accomplishments include being the first in her program to teach online courses and receiving recognition as the Disability Advocate of the Year in 2016.  

Flores-Muñoz is an alumna of Del Mar College and an Early Childhood program graduate. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. In 1995, she began teaching as an adjunct instructor before becoming a full-time faculty member in 2004. 

Among other positions she filled before joining DMC, Flores-Muñoz worked in all areas of early care and education as a preschool teacher, child care director, State of Texas Child Care Licensing Investigator, Early Childhood Interventionist, Head Start Training Coordinator and Early Head Start program director while attending college at night.  

Given all of her accomplishments, Flores-Muñoz has remained focused, dedicating her adult life to advocating for young children and educating students of all ages for careers devoted to our youngest residents. Today, you might say, Flores-Muñoz’s story included a “happily ever after” with the announcement of her becoming the 2021 recipient of the Dr. Aileen Creighton Award for Teaching Excellence.