Investing in students and honoring the syllabus

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KENANSVILLE — Mary Ann Simmons attended South Columbus High School in Tabor City, NC. She immediately transitioned to the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) where she received her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in English. Simmons has taught English at multiple higher-level institutions such as Cape Fear Community College, UNCW, and most recently, James Sprunt Community College.

“I am from a small town originally. I had also become accustomed to the small setting that graduate school provides. I found I really valued one-on-one instruction time with my students. JSCC was appealing to me because of its smallness.”

Simmons describes JSCC with all the warmth and affection that a person describes home.

“I have been blessed to have been mentored by some really exceptional and seasoned leaders here at JSCC. Coming to JSCC gave me an opportunity to focus on sharpening some very specific skills. People like Lynn Pridgen, who was retiring when I started here, really invested in me. She and I were very similar in terms of expectations for our students and what we required. I learned so much from her.”

Simmons goes on to say that Pridgen affirmed important qualities for an instructor to cultivate are sticking to your word, honoring your syllabus, expecting students to honor your rules, and always remembering who you are as a teacher and a person.

“When I came here, it felt like I was home.”

Simmons teaches a variety of English classes for JSCC. Simmons attempts to allow her classroom to be a free space for students to think, grow, and learn in freedom. “I enjoy listening to my students and hearing their questions. It’s important to me to acknowledge that they are not all the same- they all learn differently.” Simmons has cultivated a teaching career centered around meeting the individual needs of her students. Instructors like Simmons treat students with the same care and attention that would be directed towards a family member.

“My favorite quote is by Abraham Lincoln. He says ‘Whatever you are, be a good one.’ We are all going to take a different path in life, but I want my students to be good at what they choose.”

Simmons would say that she is truly living her dreams. From childhood, Simmons aspired to be a teacher.w She deeply loves not only her students but JSCC as a whole. “Especially in the times we are navigating, it is so important that we all work together to love our students. So many are fighting unseen battles. I want my students to see me lead by example. I can have joy because I love doing what I do here.”