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Creating Stories of Student Success: Lynsay McCaulley Receives George Jenkins Endowed Teaching Chair Award for 2014

Monday, March 7, 2016

This is the fourth in a series of four Endowed Teaching Chair 2014 stories.

An exciting journey waiting to unfold. A burning flame of potential ready to be ignited. This is what Lynsay McCaulley envisions in each of her students. That faith in the capacity of each individual to discover magic – both the magic of literature and within themselves – makes her absolutely worthy of the honor of the Endowed Teaching Chair Award.

McCaulley’s irresistible mix of enthusiasm for her students to learn and passionate love of literature is a truly winning combination. Beloved by her students and colleagues alike, she has brought her special gift to the subjects of English and Mass Communications, and advising students both inside and out of the classroom.

In addition to being the deserving recipient of the George Jenkins Endowed Teaching Chair Award of 2014, she has been twice awarded the honor of being Teacher of the Year at Polk State.

“My teaching philosophy consists of the primary principle that everyone, every human being, has the potential to learn!” said McCaulley. “Where that potential sparks is with excitement and passion. My excitement for literature shows through my lessons and activities, and it’s contagious. Students have often said that it’s opened them up to read new things–or to read, period.”

McCaulley enthusiastically embraces differentiated instruction in her classroom, meeting the needs of students with varying learning styles. She is also committed to creating a classroom environment where her students can truly have the freedom to thrive. “From day one, my classroom was a safe space, and that safety garnered the comfort necessary for learners to embrace their own potential,” she said.

“I came into this career knowing that not every student is going to feel thrilled about reading Hawthorne or Fitzgerald, and I wanted them to view writing and literature as a personal journey,” she said. “I tell them, what you will gain from this class is the ability to read well, to write well, and to think well. This class will give you those life skills.”

She utilizes technology — videos, presentations, audiobooks, student projects — and also “good old fashioned conversation,” she said, to engage her students.

“We cover the texts in class and talk about it. Students ask questions, they look things up, and they relate the stories to their own lives. It’s all about making the text relevant. No one cares about an unreachable story and its characters until it becomes tangible, personal. My English classes are essentially book clubs with 25 people in attendance every day.”

McCaulley began her career at Polk State College (then known as Polk Community College) in 2008 when she was hired as a member of the faculty to help students prepare for college. A year later she was asked to be the advisor for Chain of Lakes (COL) National Honor society chapter. At the Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School, she has served as an advanced remedial reading instructor and as an Honors English instructor.

McCaulley has been a coordinator for college preparation and remediation at both the COL and the College level. She leads workshops and study sessions geared at helping students succeed. She has also explored cooperative learning strategies, combining classroom-based education with practical work experience.

She has been very much involved in STEM education, implementing technology-based activities and best practices for STEM instruction. She has assisted in Campus Compact STEM Fellowes Program with a former Polk State professor, Dr. Sarah Hoiland, as well as being a technology coach and instructor for colleagues as well as students.

McCaulley is not only a gifted educator, but a true humanitarian.

For three years, she and her National Honor Society chapter has served the United States National Guard and their families a Christmas lunch, and at the Winter Haven Women’s Resource Center, volunteering at their annual Christmas events, raising money for various programs that aid women and children. She is the founder and advisor for Knit Wits, a service-learning organization that knits and donates scarves for the homeless.

Most poignantly, she founded the Amber Shaw Memorial Scholarship in honor of an outstanding student and philanthropist who was tragically killed in a car accident. McCaulley has preserved her legacy by rewarding other students whose devoted service benefited the community. She has organized and runs the annual Cake Auction which raises funds for this scholarship.

McCaulley holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English Literature from Florida Southern College and National University, respectively. She earned her teaching certification through Polk State College’s Educator Preparation Institute, an accelerated program for those who hold non-education bachelor’s degrees but want to become teachers.

She has used the funds from her Endowed Teaching Chair Award for technology to increase her ability to reach her students with differentiated instruction. She purchased a laptop with presentation and video editing software. She has also purchased digital cameras for her students to use in their various projects.

“I am a lifelong learner,” said McCaulley. “I love the classroom environment and am constantly learning. Teaching gives me the environment I need–satisfaction in guiding young people, accomplishment when I face challenges that each year provides, and encouragement to let my creativity flourish. I didn’t understand how much of an impact I would have until I started this job. Now I can’t imagine working and teaching anywhere else.”