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Hubbard recalls switching gears from higher ed administrator to professor

TJC sociology professor Dr. David Hubbard started his career in higher education 36 years ago as an administrator, but it wasn’t until 2002 that he discovered his passion for teaching.

“I was a late bloomer,” he said.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in sociology from Baylor University in 1973, Hubbard spent a few years in the corporate world before joining the administration at Lon Morris College in Jacksonville.

“When you’re at a small private school, you wear a lot of different hats,” he said. “I did everything from being registrar to fundraising, director of admissions, business officer, financial aid officer, you name it.”

After Lon Morris, he worked in various administrative roles at other East Texas colleges, including Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Jacksonville College and then returned to Lon Morris.

Along the way, he earned his master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies with an emphasis in sociology, history and criminal justice. He also taught a night class in sociology, during his time at Trinity Valley.

He joined TJC in 2012 in the dual credit department and became a full-time sociology professor in 2014.

“I had worked all those years and finally found my favorite thing to do,” he said. “I consider teaching as my calling. I also started on my doctorate by taking one or two classes at a time and finished about six years ago. Again, a late bloomer.”

He also has a passion for leading people, and he served as TJC Behavioral Sciences department chair from 2018 until 2020.

“I enjoyed that because it was a good fit with all of my experience in reporting,” he said. “Communication and empowerment are big for me, and I had 10 full-time instructors and 16 adjuncts; so, it was mostly just trying to keep everyone on the same page.”

He continued, “I didn’t realize my philosophy in the workplace had a name, which is human resource development. It’s not about just running an HR office; in fact, it’s not about that at all. You’re empowering employees to feel like they’re needed and wanted. It’s got to be a top-down and bottom-up approach — with listening and respect, and not building silos.”

He translated that philosophy into his classroom management style.

“I teach all-online now,” he said, “but back in my face-to-face days, I would say, ‘You guys are the class and I’m the coach. I’m here to lead you if you’ll allow me to, but this is your class and I want you to get what you can out of it — so, ask me questions.’ I love getting to know the students and having them get to know me.”

Even though he teaches completely online now, he’s found ways to stay plugged in and keep his students engaged.

“I’m answering emails at all hours,” he said, “and I just recently started creating video messages in [TJC’s online learning platform] Canvas; so, every Sunday afternoon, I record a video message just to give them an update on what’s due this week, tell them when their exam opens and closes, wish everyone a good week, hit the ‘send’ button and it pops into their email.”

That ingenuity and engagement earned Hubbard TJC’s Thomas H. Shelby Jr. Endowed Chair for Teaching Excellence award this year.

The nomination was a surprise in itself.

“It was a shock, and I thought, ‘Well, they’re down to Hubbard, so they must have run out of people to nominate,’” he laughed.

The nomination process is lengthy, with lots of data and letters of recommendation to gather and then a months-long wait to find out the winner. 

“I didn’t even tell my wife, Lynne, or my two daughters about the nomination because I thought it was a moot point,” he admitted.

Winners are usually surprised with balloons and fanfare during class time; but since Hubbard teaches online, the big reveal came during a department chair meeting.

“I was totally floored, it was so unexpected,” he said. “There are so many more excellent professors at this institution. But me? I didn’t teach my first class until later in life, and, at the time, I was horrible at it. I couldn’t teach my way out of a wet paper bag that first night.

“Someone told me once that ‘either you know how to teach, or you don’t.’ I strongly disagree with that because I did not know how to teach. Far from it. It took a learning process, and I still feel like I’m learning how to teach. I love to learn. At 65 years old, I got my doctorate because it was a personal goal that I wanted to accomplish.”

Today, he continues learning by attending online seminars on new methods in online teaching.

“It has come so far in the last 10 to 15 years, and things are constantly changing,” he said. 

Ultimately, he’s willing to learn whatever it takes to help students.

“I’ve always been at a community college and loved it because there is such a need,” he said. “Community college isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely for everyone who wants to come and get a good education. We serve the academically underprepared students, the valedictorians and everyone in between.”

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