TSC creates Academy of Lifelong Learning, welcomes longtime educator as coordinator

As an educator, Sharon McQuaid has dedicated herself to a career of lifelong learning, fitting for the Academy of Lifelong Learning coordinator for Workforce Training and Continuing Education at Texas Southmost College.

The Academy of Lifelong Learning is a new initiative developed by TSC to provide the community with courses that allow self-discovery in an authentic learning environment and is a project funded through an AmeriCorps grant program.

AmeriCorps is a national organization dedicated to improving lives, strengthening communities and fostering civic engagement through service and volunteering. McQuaid is a member of the AmeriCorps Volunteers In Service to America (VISTA) program.

After teaching for more than two decades, McQuaid was ready for a shift in her career. So, when she came across the opportunity to build and grow new programs, she jumped at the chance.

“I’m thrilled beyond belief to be here at TSC with the chance to build something positive for our community,” said the 50-year-old. “This is just the type of opportunity I have been looking for.”

Before arriving at TSC, the Pennsylvania native earned a bachelor’s degree in teaching secondary English – grades six through 12.

She moved to the Rio Grande Valley in 2000, beginning her teaching career with South Texas Independent School District (STISD) teaching middle school English at the Teacher’s Academy.

Five years later, she returned to Pennsylvania to care for her ailing grandmother, who was one of her greatest inspirations, but after her passing in 2009, McQuaid was ready to return to the place she now calls home – the Rio Grande Valley.

Upon returning, McQuaid continued to teach at STISD as a pre-AP English teacher at the district’s Health Professions campus.

“I immediately fell in love with the Valley and the people in the community,” she said. “So, to be able to return, teach young minds and now have the chance of making education available to the entire community is worthwhile.”

McQuaid added that she left the classroom setting to have more autonomy in teaching and to have a bigger platform to make change.

“I may have left the classroom, but I haven’t left teaching,” she said. “I’m still a teacher’s teacher and a student’s advocate, and my goal at TSC is to bring education to the community, make college less intimidating and help others discover their interests, passions and expand their knowledge.”

As coordinator of TSC’s Academy of Lifelong Learning, McQuaid is working closely with leadership in creating and implementing new programs, such as a 20-hour ornamental welding class, health and wellness courses, art classes and a language academy that will include instruction in Spanish, French and American Sign Language.

“When I say these classes will provide an authentic learning experience, I mean that each class has an instructor who is an expert in the field they are teaching,” she said. “For example, our French instructor will be teaching from France and our art instructor is an up-and-coming artist from Louisiana. All of this is really exciting for us and for the people we serve.”

With more than 35 Academy of Lifelong Learning classes ready to be introduced, TSC will begin rolling out courses in summer 2021.

McQuaid said she will continue to work toward expanding offerings in the academy with a two-pronged approach – research and suggestions from the community, because, overall, each course must meet the needs of the Rio Grande Valley.

“TSC is a great place with a number of opportunities that can lead to great adventures, it just depends on what you do with what you learn,” she said. “Our plan is to do more than teach, it’s to create lifelong learners.”

For more information about workforce training courses offered at TSC, visit Workforce Training and Continuing Education.