PUBLISHED: 1:21 PM on Wednesday, October 5, 2005
A for Effort
McCafferty named Educator of the Year

Photo by Amanda Gragert
  Mary McCafferty prepares students to take the GED.
For Mary McCafferty, an adult basic education instructor for SERRC, helping students learn and seeing them develop confidence in their abilities is reward enough for a job well done. Yet those who work with her believed that she deserved an even higher honor, and it was their nomination that landed her the title of the Alaska Adult Education Association's 2005 Educator of the Year.

"I was really honored-it was such a wonderful, wonderful surprise," said McCafferty, who has been teaching at SERRC since 2000. "I am extremely humbled by it."

McCafferty, who helps students study for their GEDs and provides basic skill reviews in math and writing, was nominated by the Southeast Regional Resource Center staff through a letter written by Carin Smolin.

"She easily casts from teaching math problem-solving, to analyzing a student's essay writing, to talking about job goals and personal dreams," said Smolin. The nomination letter also credits McCafferty with putting together small group classes, and supporting the outreach staff, as well as VISTA and other volunteers.

Since joining SERRC, McCafferty has helped more than 300 students a year. Students receive one-on-one instruction, tailored to their learning styles.

"We're lucky that we're small enough in Juneau to be able to provide this type of individualized instruction," said McCafferty, who adds that each study plan is geared towards a student's needs and interests.

Originally from Kent, Ohio, McCafferty traveled to Alaska for family and work reasons, and lived in Ketchikan for 15 years before moving to Juneau.

Her "varied background," as she laughingly calls it, includes working at the Southeast Island School District for three years as well as managing an art gallery, substitute teaching and being in and out of the health education field.

"I've worked in the education and art worlds for most of my career," she said, "but being hired at SERRC was like coming home for me.

"I love working with adults. They are motivated and goal-oriented, and it is refreshing to work with students on that level.

"What I especially love about working at SERRC is that every day is different, and I value that variety," she added.

"I plan to continue in adult education and see myself here years from now; I'm enjoying Juneau and my work quite a bit."

Obviously her dedication to her job and to her students shows.

At a statewide conference held in early September for all adult educators, McCafferty was presented with the AAEA Educator of the Year award in front of all of her peers.

Founded in 1977, the Alaska Adult Education Association is a professional organization that works to improve coordination, communication and support for adult education services in Alaska.

"It was a great surprise, especially because my co-workers nominated me for the award-they wrote such a wonderful letter," said McCafferty.

"It was also an honor because in the five years that I've attended the conference, I've acquired so many teaching strategies from other adult educators around the state-they are incredible role models," she added.

"They have been teaching for many more years than I have, and I value all of the strategies and approaches that I've gained from them."

According to the AAEA, more than 1,000 Alaskans annually obtain jobs as a result of the skills gained through adult education programs, and McCafferty's students are no different.

"She helps students set and achieve learning goals, then carefully points them in the right direction," Smolin wrote of McCafferty's abilities.

"When she lets go, students head into life's current with confidence and success."