Back to Class

A teaching degree wasn’t an option for me in college. The major was available, but a mountain of credit card debt prevented me from taking off work for student teaching. No big deal. There were plenty of attractive majors in the sea.

Ten years later, I graduated with a B.S. in Family Studies. How I ended up in this major and why it took so damn long is a story for another day. Though what I’d be when I grew up remained a mystery, I had a degree, and after 22 years in school, zero interest in graduate school.

No degree was required for my first post-college position. Accepting the job as a secretary in the department from which I’d just obtained a degree was the best decision I ever made. My new bosses were extension state specialists — a title I’ve held for the past 28 years that meant nothing to me when I took the job.

My bosses made me take advantage of the free tuition program. Instead of an assistantship (which I couldn’t get because I already worked full-time for the university), they hired me as adjunct faculty to teach courses through the evening-weekend college. Three years later, I had a master’s degree in family economics.

Within three months of finishing graduate school, a nearby university hired me for a state extension specialist position one of my bosses had a hand in creating. My job was to develop programs in financial literacy. Inspired by my own failures, I set out to prevent people from making my mistakes. Those who can’t, teach.

An eye toward preventing financial problems prompted me to focus more on youth. To reach the kids, I targeted middle- and high-school teachers. In addition to stand-alone teacher-training workshops, I was a regular presenter at annual statewide teacher training conferences.

Relationships with teachers across Georgia made me the ideal person to serve as Assistant to the Dean for Family and Consumer Sciences Education. In that role, I identify the kind of training teachers need and find experts in our college to offer workshops for teachers. I’m well-versed on the required content (performance standards) for courses in areas such as nutrition, food science, food safety, culinary arts, early childhood education, textiles, and fashion merchandising.

People say I’m a great teacher, but it’s an illusion. My field of expertise is very narrow. I’ve taught the same basic concepts for thirty years. Along the way, I figured out what does and doesn’t work. Practice makes perfect.

The dean called in early December. My teaching skills and familiarity with so many fields of study made me the ideal person to teach Introduction to Family and Consumer Sciences. The seventy-five minute class meets weekly for fifteen weeks starting January 4.


The last time I taught in the classroom, we still used filmstrips, transparencies, and opaque projectors. Grades were posted on the instructor’s office door by social security numbers. Cordless telephones were high tech.

Saying no was an option. I’d be doing the college a favor. On top of everything I’m already doing, just the thought of putting together fifteen new lectures freaked me out. Saying yes earned me a boatload of brownie points that may well come in handy before I retire.

Talking with the instructor of the other section (mine was added to accommodate more students) clarified expectations. Turns out, twelve of the fifteen classes guest lecturers from across the college. Only three classes are my responsibility, including two in my wheelhouse that I’ll also teach in the other section.

I’m honored to have been asked, excited about teaching in the classroom again, and more than a little terrified. I’ll feel better if and when I figure out how to use the online course management system. I’ll keep you posted.

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