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McDaniel: Make it something that youre sharing, not pushing
Michallene McDaniel, Gainesville State College associate professor of sociology, teaches an upper level class on diversity and social justice. - photo by SARA GUEVARA | The Times

Michallene McDaniel | Gainesville State College

Michallene McDaniel has been with Gainesville State for more than a decade but said she feels like she hasn’t worked a day in her life.

“I think, if my job was just to get across curriculum every day, I think that would not be terribly gratifying,” she said. “But the fact that education has the ability to help transform people’s lives is extraordinarily gratifying.”

She has been published in numerous textbooks and professional journals and was named “Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year” at Gainesville State and named to The Princeton Review’s Top 300 professors list.

Why did you choose teaching?
“I always liked the idea of teaching when I was growing up but ended up teaching out of pursuing a degree in sociology. I figured out that I could either analyze data for a big corporation and do sociology that way or I could take this thing that I really loved and really found fascinating and helpful in people’s lives and share it with them. So I always thought that I would like it, and then when I actually finally did get into my own classroom, yes, it is the happiest place for me, basically.”

“To connect with the students, to provide them with a new way of looking at themselves and their place in the world, to help them make sense of some things that may be troubling them, give them a new way to think about things — because I know that most of my students are not going to become sociologists and that intro to sociology, for instance, might be the only sociology class they ever take. But I think it can be a valuable experience because it teaches them about themselves and to see themselves within the bigger picture, and I think everybody benefits from that.”

Most memorable teaching moment
“ Seeing students of different ages — I mean, some of them have been traditional students, the 18-year-olds, some of them have been in their 50s — but seeing people that are not sure they can do the school thing or they have had really rough backgrounds — I’ve had students who have had trouble with the law in the past, trouble with addiction — and they straighten themselves up and they find out they’ve got a brain that works and they just needed a little encouragement.”

Advice for other teachers
“... You have to figure out where your students are. You have to meet them there, and you have to find creative ways to get them to come along with you so you can get them to where they need to be in terms of learning the stuff in the course. I’ve talked to a lot of teachers over the years ... but the people that I have encountered who it really seems like they’re expending a tremendous amount of energy in the endeavor of teaching — they see it as this kind of struggle with the students. It’s sort of like a me-against-them kind of thing and ‘I will inflict this knowledge on them.’ Instead of making it something that you’re pushing on people, make it something that you’re sharing.”