Hackman Named 2022 Perry Fellow

Hackman.jpgProfessor Sally Hackman believes that one of the most important aspects of teaching is to show the students how passionate you are about what you do. And for Hackman, the 2022 winner of the Carolyn and Tad Perry Fellow Award, none of that passion has waned in the 23 years she’s spent at Central Methodist University.

“I think letting students know that you love what you’re doing is the first step,” she said. “They know when somebody doesn’t like what they’re doing, and so letting them know you love what you’re doing is important.”

Whether she’s filling in with the business division to teach classes or leading her own division as the director of professional education, Hackman’s love for being in the classroom and working at Central shines through. It’s a relationship that began more than two decades ago, when she was encouraged to apply for a teaching position in the business department. Hackman went on to teach business law, management, and finance for 13 years and “loved every minute of it.”

But around 10 years ago the professional education position opened up, and with a little encouragement from others, Hackman applied and got the job. Now she is the head of the division in charge of training the next generation of teachers at every level.

“It’s interesting because when I taught in the business division, I really felt like I used my education background because I was a teacher,” she said, “and now I’m in an education position and I really feel like I’m using my business background because it’s very administrative.”

While she is responsible for that administrative work on a day-to-day basis, Hackman and the education staff are constantly working hard to give their students everything they need to be successful once they have their own classrooms. They emphasize student-centered, engaged learning – tactics to keep students engaged and interested, beyond simply lecturing about content or methodology.

“We want to teach them how we want them to teach,” said Hackman, “and we definitely want to show them what they need to do to be a successful teacher.”

In this day and age, with burnout high among teachers at the elementary and secondary levels, showing the education students what they need to know can sometimes mean facing them with some hard truths. But Hackman and the faculty know that these lessons are just as important as any others when it comes to training future teachers.

“We want to have a balance between a realistic job preview and also reminding them about the passion,” she said. “We talk about what’s out there; we don’t want anybody to be surprised. But we also talk about how to deal with that, and we spend time talking about burnout and rejuvenating yourself and work-life balance, and those things really affect everyone in every career, not just teaching.”

Hackman knows firsthand how those aspects can affect all kinds, having worked in numerous different roles with students of various majors throughout her time at Central. She has been an advisor for the Sigma Pi Alpha social sorority, an instructor for CMU 101, and an academic advisor for up to a hundred or more students during some semesters. She also served as the faculty athletic representative for about 10 years, working with every transfer athlete to come to CMU and keeping teams apprised of which student-athletes are eligible and ineligible to play.

Throughout all these interactions, along with her time in the classroom, Hackman has been making lasting connections with students for more than two decades – connections that remain memorable even years later. She cites a recent instance in which she was recognized at a high school basketball tournament by a coach who happened to be her student 20 years ago. And another in which the parents of a student she met with on their campus tour remembered her four years later at their student’s graduation – helped by the fact that she had been dressed as a student for Halloween at the time.

It all goes back to the small, intimate nature of Central, where students and faculty all have the chance to get to know each other and change each other’s lives. Those are the connections Hackman thinks about when she looks back on her success stories as a teacher.

“I’ve had a lot of great students, some that went on to be top people in companies,” she said. “But it’s not about everybody who’s the top of the company. It’s about people who, I think, made a life for themselves that they wouldn’t have had, had they not come here.”

Hackman herself may or may not have made the same life for herself had she not stayed at Central so long, but it’s undeniable that the university is engrained in her family’s lives. All three of her children came to Central, and they’ve been part of her experience of it all along. An experience that, to Hackman, has “just flown by” thanks to all the students and staff she’s worked with over the years.

“I love the small size. I know a lot of students. I know them by name, I know what sport they play, and when I see them at Subway I know who they are,” she said. “I really love that about Central. You have that connection with anybody across campus.”

The Carolyn and Tad Perry Fellow Award goes annually to a faculty member who has demonstrated a genuine commitment to student experiences, growth, and achievement, beyond normal teaching and mentoring engagement.

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