When Dr. Sue Gober walks into a room – the energy changes. She radiates the familiarity and warmth of an old friend, even with those she has never met. She encourages with her smile and instills confidence with her words. A former kindergarten teacher and avid cupcake baker, she knows just the right way to make a student feel special and loved.
People are People
Gober, Professor and Director of Laboratory Experiences at UMobile, began her teaching career in a kindergarten classroom in Beaumont, TX. While managing a classroom full of energetic 5 year-olds can be intimidating – Dr. Gober embraced it.
“I would tell the parents of my kindergartners, ‘I’m going to love your children and build a relationship with them,’” she said. “Because when they know you care about them, the learning will occur.”
This led to 20 years of successful kindergarten teaching in Texas. Now, as a college professor, she hands out a 3”x5” index card on the first day of class and asks students to share one or two sentences about themselves. The answers often provide intriguing insight into a student’s hopes, dreams, struggles, and desires –opening the door for a trusting relationship.
“Real learning occurs through relationships,” Gober said. “It doesn’t matter the age – ‘people are people’ –people like to be encouraged and heard.”
While her audience has changed, her methodology and approach has been the same – love and care for the student, and the learning will take care of itself.
This approach is molding a new generation of competent and caring educators ready to make a difference in the lives of children all over the nation.
Around four years ago, Kara Jones anxiously walked into Gober’s classroom for the first time. Her Florida summer was over, books had been purchased, and the college experience had begun. As she took her seat, she noticed other wide-eyed students sitting nervously around her, waiting for the professor’s entrance. Academia has a way of intimidating young minds, but a caring professor has the power to put nervous energies at rest.
“Dr. Gober entered the room and her personality, charm and warmth immediately filled the space,” Kara said.
Gober began by introducing students to the University of Mobile, then handed each student a popsicle stick on which to write his or her name. She placed them in a cup, eventually pulling the sticks and calling on students for participation throughout the semester.
“We knew we could be called on at any moment,” Kara said. “Oh, the sheer embarrassment of not knowing the answer or to be caught not paying attention!”
Now, in her last semester as a student teacher, Kara reflects on her time in the education program one of tremendous growth. She learned valuable teaching principles, but she has also been challenged and inspired to arrive early, leave late, exceed expectations, and exert excellence. She considers Dr. Gober the source of that inspiration.
“Personally, I have been stretched, pulled, and pushed to reach my absolute potential,” Kara said. “Any educator should aspire to be half the worker, dreamer, and doer Dr. Gober is.”
An Unexpected Friend
Sarah Becky Spain ’11 never actually sat in Gober’s classroom – but was profoundly impacted by her presence in the education department.
Entering UMobile as a business major transfer, Sarah Becky was ready for a change in direction. She enrolled in Assistant Professor Brenda Chastain’s TE 201 class, nervous and out of place. But it wasn’t long before she knew that education was the right career path.
“Mrs. Chastain was the kindest, most gentle teacher I had ever met,” she said.
After class, Sarah Becky stuck around to speak with Chastain about the semester and her change in major. During their conversation, Gober approached them and called Sarah Becky by name.
“We’re so excited to have you,” she said. “I’ve heard so many good things about you!”
As the semester progressed, Gober went to her classroom and Sarah Becky went to hers. They only had a few brief interactions over the next few months. But that brief first impression forged a vital and lasting relationship for future years.
“Dr. Gober is one of those rare treasures of a person who is destined to change lives,” Sarah Becky said.
Since graduating, Sarah Becky has leaned heavily on Gober’s wisdom and friendship as she teaches her own class of 20 kindergartners. She remembers the care that Gober and other professors showed by knowing her by name and listening to her hopes, dreams, and concerns.
“Dr. Gober has been an incredible reminder of what matters most in life, relationships, and my career,” Sarah Becky said. “I will never forget the impact she has had on my life.”
Influencing the Future
One day recently, students were hurrying into her classroom. Gober could sense tension in the mid-semester air. It was obvious that the weight of assignments, deadlines, and personal lives was taking its toll. When she walked in, she paused, and took a moment to read from her devotional.
“What are you most thankful for?” she asked the class.
One young man, through tears, spoke, “I’m thankful that we serve a God that – no matter what we’ve done or what is going on – He’s always there for us.”
As others in the class shared, everyone became moved to tears. The mood lifted.
Gober reflects on this experience as one of the most “powerful” moments in a classroom setting. She is thankful to work at a university that allows her space to share her faith, both in the class and on a relational basis.
“It’s been very powerful for me to be at a university where I can close the door and pray with a student,” she said.
Her faith and genuine care for students has made an impact not only on UMobile students, but the students filling elementary classrooms all over the nation.
“I want my students to have the passion for teaching that I do – I want them to enjoy it and know that it’s a true calling,” she said.
A National Voice
In addition to being professor, director of professional laboratory experiences, and department chairman for the Elementary and Secondary Education programs at UMobile, Gober is a featured education blogger for the Huffington Post. In it, she shares timely wisdom, insight, and experiences from the college classroom. You can read more at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sue-gober