Today@Sam Article

McCauley Named 2015 Piper Professor

May 7, 2015
SHSU Media Contact: Julia May

Joyce McCauley
Joyce McCauley has spent 45 years in the classroom, most of which have been teaching teachers.  This year, she is being recognized as one of the most outstanding professors in the state.

Joyce McCauley, a Sam Houston State University education professor who has been instrumental in getting the university recognized for the outstanding community engagement of its faculty, staff and students, demonstrating that education reaches beyond the classroom, has been selected to receive the prestigious 2015 Piper Professor Award. 

Each year, the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation makes 10 awards of $5,000 each to professors for superior teaching at the college level. Selection is made on the basis of nominations submitted by each college or university in the State of Texas. Begun in 1958, with eight awards, the roster of Piper Professors includes outstanding professors from two and four-year colleges and universities, public and private.

McCauley becomes the 13th Sam Houston State University professor honored since the program’s inception. 

“I had the good fortune to team teach a literacy block with Joyce nearly 20 years ago,” said Mary Robbins, associate vice provost and professor of literacy education at SHSU.

“Although I think I wanted to kill her at the time—she is a hard task master and prepares her classes right down to the script she uses—she showed me what good teaching is,” she said.  “She taught me how to put drama and passion into my teaching.  She coached me on how to plan instruction and how to be flexible when a teachable moment arose.  She challenged me to think about assessment and evaluation in new and different ways.

“It is a right and good and joyful thing that Joyce has received the Piper Award,” Robbins said.

McCauley lived in Erie, Pennsylvania, until she was 10 years old, at which time she moved with her mother and sister to Florida to be near her grandparents.  She attended junior college on a work scholarship, and then continued on a teaching scholarship at the University of South Florida. 

She married her high school sweetheart, and on the night of their wedding, they left for their first teaching jobs in Guam.

“We originally planned to be there for two years, but we loved the island and the people so much, we stayed for 26 years,” McCauley said.

She first taught at a village elementary school.  After completing her master’s degree, she was offered a position teaching English as a Second Language in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Guam.  Upon completing her doctorate at Texas Woman’s University and a Montessori Certification in England, she became employed in the College of Education at the University of Guam and served in that college until her family left the island.

“As our parents began to age, we decided we needed to return to the States to be closer to them,” she said.

She applied for a teaching position at SHSU in 1994 and was hired in the College of Education.  It wasn’t long until Texas began to feel like “home” to the McCauley family. 

“Sam Houston State University has been, of course, a key player in growing our roots.  I immediately felt at home, valued, and respected when I began teaching here,” she said. “And now, as a tenured full professor, I am fully invested in its future.”

Her passion for teaching keeps her in the career to which she has devoted her life.

“People have asked me why I teach, when I could quit and ‘have fun,’” she said. “For me, teaching is fun.  I’m doing what I love, and I do a pretty good job of teaching the knowledge and skills of the profession. 

“I am a teacher, but I’m able to be so much more,” she said. “I’m a counselor, a choreographer, a dancer, an entertainer, a grant writer, an actress, a comedian, an artist, a singer, a mother, a research, and a public speaker. 

“I teach, yes.  But I’m able to do so much more.  I encourage, I experiment, I create, I persuade, I inspire, I model, and I coach.  In what profession can you wear so many hats and do so many different things?” 

Her inspiration is the positive response she receives from her students.  Her office walls on campus and at her home are filled with thank-you notes from her students, her email messages are very often from teachers who tell her the power her classes have had on their teaching, and she is frequently visited by former students who stop by her office for words of advice and encouragement.

She also receives positive responses from her colleagues.  She has been asked to do workshops and presentations on teaching in the college.  She has mentored many new faculty members—and several from other colleges. 

“I think they like me because I freely admit my own mistakes and weaknesses,” she said.  “I’m always willing to share strategies or techniques that I have used to improve my own teaching.  I’ve gotten notes and letters from faculty members telling me I’ve been helpful or thanking me for supporting them.  These ‘pats on the back’ keep me wanting to learn more, be a model for younger faculty, and continue to teach,” she said.

Not all of her accomplishments have been in the classroom.  McCauley established the Full Circle Literacy Initiative that partners senior citizens with first grade struggling readers.

“My aunt had dementia and I was her caretaker.  She lived nearby in a senior housing development with varying levels of care,” she said.  “I spent a great deal of time there and wanted to find a way to use my knowledge and skills to make life better for the residents.  I created several programs over a number of years, but the one that is still going strong after 11 years is the Senior Reader Program.”

McCauley designed the program, raised funds and obtained donations for the necessary reading materials, and established a collaborative arrangement between the retirement home and a local school. 

“I love to hear the senior talk so fondly about ‘their’ children and see them read together,” she said.  “I love to watch the children run into the room and give those big hugs.”

Another highlight of McCauley’s career, and one for which Sam Houston State University has received national recognition, has come through her work in community engagement. 

“This journey began in 2004 with the reading of one book, Educating Citizens,” she said.  “Our past provost, David Payne, gave the book to all faculty and staff members who were interested in developing civic and moral character within an academic setting.”

Payne appointed McCauley chair of the American Democracy Project committee and supported initiatives that involved creating a more engaged campus, encouraging SHSU students to be involved in the community, and promoting the university’s motto, “The measure of a Life is its Service.” 

“It was then I began to look at my role as a teacher differently, seeing the importance of inspiring students to go beyond their course work to help them realize what they were learning could be applied in real ways, now, to make life better,” McCauley said. 

“I began to keep at the forefront of my teaching the main reason we have schools and institutions of higher education—to create strong citizens for our country; people who care, who can think critically, who can vote intelligently, who can work together to build our nation,” she said. “After years of teaching hundreds of courses and thousands of students, I now see years ahead of promoting this bigger picture of why we bother learning anything.”

Sam Houston State University’s previous Piper Professors include Hazel Floyd, education (1961); George Killinger, sociology (1968); Mary Frances Park, education (1981); Fisher Tull, music (1984); Ralph Pease, English (1987); Witold Lukaszewski, political science (1992); Rolando V. del Carmen, criminal justice (1998); Caroline Crimm, history (2004); Vic Sower, management (2005); James Olson, history (2006); Frank Fair, philosophy (2011); and Balasundram Maniam, finance (2012).


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