Faculty Focus: Bill McCaffrey
Teaching to Learn in China: Bill McCaffrey’s Life-Changing Experience
Bill McCaffrey , Faculty
Information Systems Management
School of Undergraduate Studies
The faculty members at UMUC are not only experienced professionals, they are also vibrant, dynamic people with a passion for education. Bill McCaffrey, an adjunct professor at UMUC teaching a broad array of Information Systems Management courses for more than a decade, proved that dynamism during his recent trip to China. Not a vacation, but a teaching opportunity. And, says Bill, he wound up learning far more than he expected.
Bill and his wife, Anne, had read about opportunities to teach English to children in foreign countries. After some discussion, the couple boarded a plane to China, where they spent 130 days living in a tiny village and teaching English to local children at the Qinhuangda Foreign Languages Professional College.
Always the creative type, Bill was often requested to develop presentations during his tenure at IBM because of his uncanny knack for telling a story and engrossing his audience. That creativity has paid off in his teaching, as well. Said Bill, “Students enjoy being imaginative and they like to show you what they know.” This philosophy has allowed him to unleash the potential in countless students throughout the years, and the impact was even more profound to his Chinese class.
The Qinhuangda Foreign Languages Professional College is a government-run school; creativity is far from encouraged. Most of the students dream of being something other than what they are studying to be. Bill’s various lessons—ranging from play writing, to sing-a-longs, to creating businesses, to cultural exchanges, art exhibits, and more—were unlike anything the students had previously experienced. Their unbridled passion and enthusiasm were contagious and grew on a daily basis.
At the end of the 130 days, everyone was a changed person. Amid tears and hugs, Bill and his students said good-bye hoping that they would meet again, but savoring the wonderful experiences and enjoying their new hope for the future. With newfound confidence and determination, many students vowed to be like the American boxing hero, Rocky Balboa and to “never, never give up”. (Bill had shown the movie “Rocky” to students and some of the Chinese faculty, who were moved to tears and cheers.)
There was so much to love about the Chinese people. According to Bill, the best thing the experience provided is a much greater appreciation for individual talents and gifts. “We as teachers learn as much from our students as they do from us,” he said.
Bill knows that he will never forget his teaching experience in China and the profound impact it had on him and his students, desiring to replicate that thrill back at home at the institution he clearly loves.
“UMUC is one of the best-run organizations with which I’ve had the opportunity to work," he said. "It reminds me of my IBM days, where concern for people and the pursuit of excellence filled the atmosphere. The president, the staff and faculty truly embrace the concept of providing a quality education for every student, no matter how many challenges they face in their personal lives. I love teaching here and I am proud to be a part of it."