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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

South instructor changes career-path to find rewarding job

Photo by Patrick Cusack/The Collegian
Photo by Patrick Cusack/The Collegian

By Katie Huson-Martinex/feature editor

(Part three in a four-part series on faculty winners of the Chancellor’s Award for Exemplary Teaching, an annual award that recognizes professors who impress and inspire their students.)

Photo by Patrick Cusack/The Collegian
Photo by Patrick Cusack/The Collegian

When she was in college, Margaret Debenport did not know she would find her ideal career in teaching.

A career change led her toward her receipt of the Chancellor’s Award for Exemplary Teaching this year.

The South Campus instructor and CAD program coordinator earned a bachelor’s in architecture from Texas Tech University and for 10 years worked in design and project management in the field of engineering and architecture.

She got her first opportunity to teach while training interns at an upscale architectural firm and was surprised by the contentment she experienced in helping young people learn and become successful.

In 1994 she began teaching part time on South Campus and in 1997 she switched her career to full-time teaching at TCC. Since then, she has nurtured the South Campus CAD program and helped it grow into a state-of-the-art educational environment.

Debenport has been instrumental in the implementation of the latest computer drafting software, worth an estimated $21 million, and she does a one-week “shadow” of professional engineers each year to see how the software is being used in the field.

“ We have been so fortunate to acquire this software at a great discount,” she said. “It really gives our students an edge and enables them to hit the ground running after graduation.”

Many of the program’s former students agree that the opportunity to work with the same software they will be using in the field has given them a great advantage, and they also point to Debenport’s teaching skills in particular as being key to their success.

“ It quickly became apparent that Margaret had mastered the material she was teaching, but what impressed me the most was her ability to bridge the gap between her students and the material,” Thomas Ford, a former student, said.

Many “What could the teacher do to improve” sections on teacher evaluation forms are left blank.

One student remarked, “She is perfect, how do you improve on perfection?”

Another suggested she could have herself cloned.

At the request of some of her students, Debenport founded the South Campus chapter of the American Design Drafting Association and remains its adviser. The ADDA has several fundraisers each year, with all proceeds directly benefiting TCC students, such as a can food drive and an annual CAD fair, where demonstrations are given and area employers who utilize CAD software set up booths and meet with students.

Debenport has gone above and beyond when recruiting new students into the CAD program.

Throughout the year, she hosts several hands-on demonstrations for high school students, including a tour of the facilities, an explanation of the program and first-hand experience on advanced CAD and animation software.

Debenport has arranged for the students to work on making a basketball go through a hoop on the computer screen, something many of them find entertaining.

“ I just love that moment when their faces light up and they realize this is something they can do,” she said.

In addition to the demonstrations at the school, she also goes into the community to recruit, attending career-day fairs and volunteering to work TCC booths at popular events across the metroplex.

Debenport has also maintained contact with industry professionals in order to verify curriculum and overall effectiveness. Several companies in the field of drafting arrange interviews with TCC students who have studied in the CAD program.

“ More than 400 companies in North Texas use CAD for various aspects of their business, so there are lots of opportunities in this field,” she said.

Debenport has also been actively involved in the design of several remodeling projects on South Campus, including the renovations to the STEC building in the summer of 2000, the designated smoking areas and the new upscale coffee bar, among others.

Through her involvement with the Fort Worth Jaycees, who named her Outstanding Member of the Year in 1998, Debenport has served on countless committees including the Miss Fort Worth Pageant, the downtown Christmas tree and the Halloween haunted house.

On campus, she has been involved with the Faculty Association, serving as secretary, senate chairwoman and ultimately, president.

In 2005 she was given the opportunity to represent TCC at the Salzburg International Summer Program in Austria.

She has served as department chair and carried out administrative responsibilities, but says she prefers to work with students in the classroom.

“ It may be something I would consider doing in the future, but for now I am happiest in front of a classroom full of students,” she said.

Debenport says she plans to return to school at some point in the near future and work toward her master’s degree.

“ That is something I really want to do because I feel like not only would it benefit me, but my students as well,” she said.

Debenport has had a distinguished career inside and outside of TCC, but she still says that the highlight of her career is when she can reach a student and help him or her to be successful.

“ The most rewarding thing for me is when a student comes back after graduation and thanks me,” she said. “The awards are nice, but for me that is what it’s all about.”

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