Faculty Focus: Bill McCaffrey

Teaching to Learn in China: Bill McCaffrey’s Life-Changing Experience


By Cheryl Balassone |   October 2010

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."