Donna McCauley earned the Master Teacher and Professor of the Year awards by being a leader in her field, involving herself in the community and helping her students achieve their goals.

“I love to watch the students gain confidence in themselves, that they believe that they can pursue a career that they’re very passionate about,” McCauley said. “I love to teach because I’ve had the privilege to continue to have the relationship with the alumni from our programs, and feel so blessed that what we were able to do here at Moraine contributed to the success that they now have in their own career.”

McCauley, who is the professor and coordinator of Moraine Valley’s Recreation Therapy and Recreation Management career programs, graduated from Illinois State University in 1978 with a bachelor’s degree in recreation and parks administration and began work in the field in 1978. She joined Moraine Valley in 1981 as an adjunct until 1993, after which she started full time as a full-time coordinator and faculty member in the curriculums of both the recreation therapy and the recreation and sport management programs.

“Recreation therapy and recreation sport management are very, very unique careers. We often call them discovery careers. I knew in my heart that in order to continue the services that are needed in both careers, we’re going to need to have students qualified to be able to fill the spots,” McCauley said. “Moraine Valley is one of the unique community colleges that offer the two-year opportunity, for students to start to pursue the career as they continue on for their bachelor’s. I’m privileged to be able to give the students that start, to receive a degree in a profession that they’re as excited about as I was in being able to pursue.”

McCauley also does extensive work with the Special Olympics and serves as a commissioner for the Oak Lawn Park District and as a member of the Illinois Parks and Recreation Association College and University Relations committee.

She encourages her students to get involved in the community, seeing it as an important step in getting more out of their college experience and expand what they have to offer a future employer.

“We always tell our students, “What’s going to raise the bar for you, to offer that agency more than just the degree?” The experience is what’s going to offer them more than just the degree,” McCauley said. “When students enter our curriculum, the very first class that they enter, they are given opportunities to volunteer, and given opportunities to gain experience, so that when they leave here they have the four years of volunteer opportunities and experience with the bachelor’s degree.”