Avila University
AU Spotlight
Submitted June 28, 2010
Avila’s new interim dean of education has traveled globe working
with special ed children

Sue McCalley,
Acting Dean of Education
Member of Avila since 1993

Recent developments promise to keep her close to home for the next year, but her vast experience in special education and therapy for at-risk children have taken Sue McCalley, Avila University’s new acting dean of the School of Education, around the world and then some.

McCalley, who just finished her 17th academic year teaching at Avila, recently was offered and accepted the position of acting dean for the 2010-2011 academic year. She’ll lead the school on an interim basis until next spring, when a determination will be made whether to make the assignment permanent.

“I’m really excited to be dean of this program,” McCalley said from her office on the second floor of Foyle Hall. “I’m excited to move us forward. With globalization … there are opportunities there. I also want to expand (the school’s) role in the community.”

McCalley’s new duties will keep her anchored to Avila for the foreseeable future. She said that’s actually been the case since around 2003, when the School of Education began preparing to receive its accreditation from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and started developing a graduate program for literacy.

Prior to that, however, she traveled throughout the far reaches of the world, helping with special education and therapy services for children in need. One of her most memorable experiences occurred in 1994, when she accompanied 20 fellow educators to China.

“When Deng (Xiaoping) was premier in China, he had a grandson who was physically disabled,” McCalley said. “He became interested in special education.

“I was a member of the Council for Exceptional Children and was chosen among a team of 20 educators to go to China for almost a month.”

McCalley said she attended the University of Beijing and University of Suchow, talking to teachers about disabilities and methods of teaching those with disabilities.

“It was just fascinating,” she said. “Most of these professors had been a part of the re-education program in the cultural revolution under Mao. They shared their stories of how they were rebuilding higher education.”

"I’m excited to move us forward. With globalization … there are opportunities there. I also want to expand (the school’s) role in the community."

McCalley said she remembers that she’d be met with giggles by schoolchildren every time she walked into a classroom.

“My interpreter said it was because I looked like Cinderella,” she said.

After the fall of Russia, McCalley traveled to that country with another group of educators and worked with children in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Alcoholism was on the increase, and she said so were cases of child abuse and abandonment.

“I gave a speech to the entire faculty at the University of St. Petersburg,” she said. “The dean of the school stood up and just grilled me about, ‘You in the U.S. think you can educate all children.’ And, we believe we can … to some degree. By the end, he finally came around and agreed with me … somewhat.”

McCalley also has done work in South Africa, India and Sweden and presented at the first World Congress on Family Violence in Singapore in 1998. She’s a member of the Oxford Round Table for Special Education and spent a week presenting there in England in 2003.

Since then, she said she’s stuck close to home, helping Avila achieve its DESE accreditation and starting the literacy graduate program. She said she can’t wait to get started guiding the School of Education forward in the next academic year. There’s also a little personal project she said she hopes to continue work on.

“Lately, I’ve been writing children’s stories,” McCalley said. “I hope to get some published.” AU