February 26, 2009


Dr. Daphne Huntley – NACC Faculty Spotlight
“Teaching – It’s the Family Business

The heart and soul of any college is its faculty. When it comes to faculty, Northeast Alabama Community College simply has the best. Highlighted here is one such dedicated professional who gives unselfishly of her time both in and outside of the classroom.

Dr. Daphne HuntleyDr. Daphne Huntley has been a full-time English Instructor at Northeast Alabama Community College since 1997. In addition, she also is the co-sponsor of the award-winning NACC Quiz Team. She holds a BS and MEd from Auburn University and a JD from the University of Akron.

Attending college after high school was expected for Huntley. Her sisters and her brother (all older than she) had gone to college. “I had been exposed to college environments from a young age, and going to college was part of the natural progression,” she said. Being the youngest of five, no less was expected of her than the rest. “I went to Auburn University to get out from under the shadow of my sisters and brother, and I blazed my own trail.”

Huntley chose teaching because “it is the family business, I suppose, in my family,” she explained. Her mother went to Alabama A&M as a non-traditional student and taught elementary school in Calhoun County for almost 30 years. Her oldest sister is retired from teaching elementary school in Randolph County. Several of her first cousins in Ohio are teachers; her sister-in-law is an elementary school teacher in Indiana, and her brother is an engineering professor. “I think it’s in the blood!” she added.

“I enjoy teaching at Northeast because of the firm values that are upheld here; they seem to have been lost in so many other parts of the country,” said Huntley. She believes that at Northeast, teaching matters, students matter. “At other institutions where I taught, students didn’t matter; writing books mattered, presenting at conferences mattered, committee meetings and reports mattered. Teaching was what happened between self-promotion opportunities.” She believes that at Northeast, teaching—how many students are passing the classes, how many students are going on for further study, how many students are successful at senior institutions, how many students gain employment in their fields—matters most. “Teachers at Northeast are encouraged to go for broke and give their all.”

She describes teaching as a love of adventure. “No two students are the same; no two classes are the same. I can teach the same writing skill from one year to the next, and two different groups of students will respond entirely differently.” The other thing she loves about teaching is the feeling that she’s making a difference. “I can think of so many teachers and community leaders and pastors who took time to advise me and help me and provide opportunities for me,” she insisted. “I love the feeling that I’m passing those blessings on to others.”

In advising her students, Huntley asks them to make sure they have the patience and desire to work with the age group they’re planning to teach. “Some students want to teach because they didn’t make it into another program such as nursing or engineering. But I think teaching is just as demanding and just as important, and I try to stress that to students considering teaching as a career.”

Huntley acknowledges that students today have access to much more technology than in the past. They move at a much faster pace and face much greater demands on their time and energies than she did as a college student. “However, some things never change,” she said. “Students today, as in the past, are smitten with a dream for a better life, a better world. Students today still must open themselves to the changes required in order for them to become effective professionals; they have to learn to think for themselves; they have to develop confidence and new skills. Now, as then, they have to learn to choose the paths that will bring their goals to fruition.”

She believes that values don’t just stop with the college though. “My experience has been that so many Northeast students come from homes where the students have learned to respect authority, to treat others as they would want to be treated, to take responsibility for their lives and their choices. These values make working with students a joy rather than torture.”

When addressing personal accomplishments, Huntley said, “To be honest, I really don’t think in terms of accomplishment. So little of what is on my résumé is my own individual effort. I am the product of people who did not hesitate to guide, advise, encourage or reprimand the young people with whom they worked. I am the product of two parents who didn’t make excuses or accept them readily; they gave their best; they expected our best. I am the product of universities that put forth money and manpower to nurture the students and send those students forth, confident in their abilities. So when I look over my achievements, I just see opportunities and gratitude for those opportunities.”

Huntley’s favorite role model was Dr. Terry Ley, who was her English Education professor at Auburn University. “He was as close to perfection as anyone I’ve ever met, but he was also the most encouraging professional. He always reached for the stars and believed his students could reach the stars, too. He is a masterful example of what excellent teaching should be.” Ley encouraged her to work on her master’s and helped her get a teaching assistantship as a graduate student at Auburn. He encouraged her to apply for a teaching position at Northeast. “Some professors like to give students the impression that they (the students) can never reach the heights that the professors have reached. But Dr. Ley wanted his students to achieve even more than he did. I will be forever grateful to him.”

William Shakespeare and John Keats are Huntley’s favorite writers, both British authors who, centuries later, speak so clearly even today about the issues that still challenge us. “Of late, I’ve been reading the books of Philipa Gregory, who wrote The Other Boleyn Girl. Gregory has written several fictional books based on English royal history. She and I don’t agree on Katherine of Aragon or Anne Boleyn, but she is a thorough researcher and an accomplished story teller.”

A favorite quote of Huntley’s is from the Bible, Romans 12:2, which says, “Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind….” Huntley believes so much of what does or does not happen to us or for us starts in our minds, and we have the choice to control our minds, our thoughts, our attitudes, our goals, our limitations. “I surely have not accomplished the ‘renewed mind,’ but it’s on my list,” she said.

When asked to comment on a particular national headline of today, Huntley said, “I’ve thought a lot about what the election of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States means. I’m surprised at how skeptical I was that he would succeed, but fortunately a lot of other people—white and black—did believe and brought it to reality. President Obama faces some enormous problems, but after what the American people accomplished in November 2008, I am more confident that we can resolve this economic crisis and create a bright future for everyone.”

Reflecting on her background Huntley offered, “I have in my home a picture of my parents on their wedding day in 1942. At that time, my mother and father were both in their twenties and neither had a high school diploma. Both had had to drop out of high school to help their families during the Depression. In the picture, they have determined, serious faces, but in real life, they were full of hope and bright dreams.” Her father worked in the shipyard at Monsanto in Anniston. Her mother got her bachelor’s degree and taught elementary school. They sent five children to college (all of whom now have degrees), mostly on the couple’s own earnings. All of her parents’ eleven grandchildren completed high school by the age of 19--most of them have college degrees and professional careers.

Huntley’s parents have been her greatest influences. “They had a wisdom and purity that I think is hard to find today. Certainly, I find it hard to live up to their example. My father died of cancer in 1981, but he taught me so much about the importance of keeping your word and doing what you say you’re going to do. He wasn’t rich or high-powered, but he gave his family his time and attention; he didn’t hold back. He’d take us fishing or riding in the family car. He didn’t talk a whole lot, but what he said, I’ve come to discover, was golden. He loved sports, and when we kids would complain about a referee’s bad call or a coach’s error, he would always say, ‘Don’t make excuses; you should be better than anybody’s error.’”

Huntley stated that her mom influenced by example. “She managed a family, a household and a full-time job, and didn’t complain. She emphasized the importance of counting our blessings and making the most of whatever opportunities we were given.” She added, “My dad and mom didn’t spend a lot of time worrying about what other people thought of them; they weren’t trying to outdo the neighbors or impress their friends. Whatever they did seemed to come out of love and commitment to their family. Family time was always their top priority.”

Huntley has two daughters, Allison, who graduated from the University of Montevallo in 2008, and Meredith, who is a sophomore at Jacksonville State University.

For more information about the NACC faculty, see the Faculty-Staff Directory and follow the name links to individual pages.