The process of going through graduation is called "walking," but that seems far too staid a word for the jubilance that comes with picking up a diploma from high school and all the way to a doctorate or medical degree.

How about we call it leaping?

Whatever the level of enthusiasm, it all starts this week with graduation at the University of Arizona. Pima Community College and area high schools soon follow.

We offer a tip of our own somewhat faded mortarboards to the accomplishments and future successes of thousands of area students.

At the same time, we want to congratulate and thank those - in addition to parents and family, of course - who make all this learning and achieving possible. The teachers.

At the end of each year, the UA gives out awards of distinction honoring faculty, as the UA puts it, for their "classroom creativity, masterful mentoring and innovative outreach."

Alain-Philippe Durand, director of the School of International Languages, Literatures and Cultures, won the only campus-wide honor for teaching given by students. The Margaret M. Briehl and Dennis T. Ray Five Star Faculty Award comes with $1,000.

Durand's resume is academically impressive and he's also gained some notoriety for being the "hip-hop professor." He has even developed a minor in the subject. Little wonder that the students call him "open-minded and extraordinarily creative."

To add to his street cred, Durand will join "eminent hip-hop scholars at Harvard's Hiphop Archive in the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute" in November, he told us.

When it comes to teaching he says, "one important thing for me is to show students why and how what we do in class is important in anything students will face in life."

There's a joy in teaching for Durand as well.

"My favorite part is the mentoring of students. So many, too many, have the tendency to look down on themselves, lacking self-confidence. Too often, they are not aware of the enormous potential they have inside them," the native of France said via email. "My favorite part is when I change that."

What's next? we asked.

"Certainly, I am always interested in new creative ways. … I might offer a seminar on why us the French love Jerry Lewis!"

Other UA award recipients

Receiving the Graduate and Professional Education Teaching and Mentoring Awards and $2,500 checks were:

• Diana Archangeli, a professor and director of graduate studies in the department of linguistics and the Honors College. The UA said "she rigorously supports her students, actively striving to meet the needs of every graduate student in the department. She has high expectations while striving to support students to achieve those expectations."

• David Christenson, a professor and director of graduate studies in the department of classics, "is known for always making time for his students, even when he is on research leave or during winter break. Current and past students say he treats them as professionals and provides opportunities not only to excel in his classes but to engage in activities expected of professional scholars," the UA said.

The Henry and Phyllis Koffler Prize, this year recognizing excellence in research, scholarship and creative activity, comes with $10,000. Its recipient:

• Ida "Ki" Moore, a professor in the College of Nursing and director of the college's Biobehavioral Health Science Division, "found that those who received whole-brain radiation before age 5 were the most vulnerable of cancer survivors for cognitive disruptions. Her findings ultimately led to the elimination of whole-brain radiation from leukemia treatment protocols."

The UA Foundation Leicester and Kathryn Sherrill Creative Teaching Award recognizing teaching excellence, particularly at the undergraduate level, includes $2,500. Its winner:

• Melissa Fitch, associate professor and director of undergraduate studies in the department of Spanish and Portuguese, "wants to help students understand and experience the ways that culture is a binding, social force. … One nominator wrote that she 'embodies through pedagogical practices and research profile what it means to be a faculty member at a student-centered research university.' "

To these outstanding teachers and all those across Southern Arizona, thank you.

Arizona Daily Star

Pomp and circumstance

• UA commencement returns to Arizona Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

• Pima Community College graduation is May 16 at the Tucson Convention Center.

• Area school districts start graduation on May 21, with the largest - Tucson and Sunnyside unified school districts on May 23.