Learning, Living and Teaching in West Texas

by ARI BASU

December 13, 2011

Joyce Cheatham, an online teacher at Texas Tech University Independent School District (TTUISD), has raised three generations of outstanding Texas Tech alumni and has a passion for teaching her students.

Joyce has taught everyone from television stars and famous singers to models and athletes. She has also taught students from all over the country, and even abroad, in places such as Munich, Germany. Not just a dedicated wife, mother and grandmother, Joyce is also a fun-loving and humorous businesswoman who loves to travel when she isn’t teaching.

Joyce has lived in Lubbock since 1963 with her husband, who was by profession an artist specializing in watercolors. Both her and her husband attended Tech, and she taught at Monterey High School while raising their five children. “Lubbock is one of the best places to raise children,” Joyce said.

Having an artist for a husband, Joyce finds West Texas to be a very creative environment in its own unique way, and she likes that about Lubbock. However, the family tradition of attending Texas Tech appeals to her the most when it comes to living in West Texas. Not only is she a Tech graduate, but her husband, five children and six grandchildren graduated from Tech as well. Joyce is very passionate about Texas Tech and TTUISD.

She enjoys that her job as an online teacher for TTUISD gives her the freedom and flexibility to do other things that interest her. Since Joyce teaches online, she can continue teaching even when she is traveling. It also allows her to spend her free time volunteering with the Daisy Scouts and taking her great-grandchild to gymnastics classes in the evening.

Working in an environment with so much flexibility also allows Joyce to express her unique personality in areas outside of work. She loves to collect eclectic collectibles. “I collect anything from ‘Where’s Waldo?’ pieces, to Star Wars limited items, to staples,” Joyce said.
Her 27-year-old hobby of collecting unique things has evolved into a full-fledged business. She runs a successful antique business, The Antique Mall of Lubbock, in the mall. It is the first store of its kind in the Southwest.

Joyce’s real passion is to teach, and she has been a teacher with TTUISD for 23 years. Currently, she teaches Child Development, an online Family and Consumer Science course for high school students. She strongly believes young people taking this course will be prepared to make intelligent decisions about their lives, especially when making the decision to become parents. In the class, students learn about children and how they develop. This, she feels, is not something one can simply learn by life experiences, but should be taught in school.

“Receiving an ongoing education as a child develops is critical. This child development course will prepare learners for the joys, challenges and rigors of being parents. And family is the most important thing - family comes first,” Joyce said.

According to Joyce, the best part about the course is that students can enroll for nine months and then have the flexibility to extend the course deadline if needed. Students can also graduate early or late depending on their specific needs.

“You can finish any month of any year, and that is a bonus,” she said. She encourages students to take advantage of this flexibility and utilize the freedom to explore their personal interests. “TTUISD students have the opportunity to take online courses in both middle school and high school, while being anywhere the world; the flexibility is wonderful,” she said.

Most of the students Joyce deals with are homeschooled. She feels that being homeschooled takes a lot of discipline on the parts of both the parents and the students, and that there are quite a few advantages of homeschooling. The one-on-one contact between students and teachers is a definite plus, according to Joyce. “I feel that traditional classes could be smaller, so students can receive more individual instruction. Online classes give individual instruction and that is key,” she said. Through online instruction, there is a constant interaction between the teacher and the student. Joyce herself is connected to her students via her MacBook Pro, iPad and Smartphone.

“I find myself spending more time answering e-mails and interacting with my student’s than grading their assignments, and which do you think is more fun?,” she said, with a laugh.
Joyce also believes homeschoolers are socially well-adjusted. They are as much a part of groups like sports teams, choir, cheerleading, acting, music, etc. in their own communities. To her, the fear that homeschoolers miss out or are unable to interact well with others isn’t really valid. Joyce thinks kids who are homeschooled have similar opportunities, just not in a high school setting. According to Joyce, taking online courses enriches students’ overall school experience by allowing them the freedom to pursue activities that interest them on a flexible schedule.

When students are trying to figure out what courses to take, Joyce thinks there are a few really important courses students need to consider. She recommends students take core courses, business courses like basic finance, and typing courses because they give students the basic tools needed to succeed. Taking courses online forces students to be self-disciplined and shows them that they can finish something that they start. “Taking classes online also shows potential employers that the students are independent, can accomplish tasks and have a good work ethic. These are qualities every employer is looking for,” Joyce said.

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