WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH: Instructor overcame obstacles on way to career

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- For some people, their careers are a calling, something bigger than themselves.

"I love education so much," said Dr. Pat Maggard. "Education saved my life."

Someone once told her, "Dwell within the beauty of your own possibility," and she has taken that to heart. Education empowered her, and she believes through education, others can find what empowers them.

As the assistant professor of officer development and leadership, she develops curriculum for professional military education and instructs on faculty development at the Squadron Officer College.

Dr. Matthew Stafford, chief academic officer at SOC, said she is one of the finest teachers he's ever met.

"It is not how much she knows, although that is impressive, it is how much she cares," he said. "It shows in everything she does and in every interaction she has with her students and the college faculty."

Maggard said she is thrilled with her career at Maxwell, but she knows the route here was not easy.

As a child, her parents worked five jobs to afford tuition to give Maggard the best education possible.

Her father, an Army staff sergeant, was killed in a car accident the day she graduated from high school.

"The hallowed halls of education dealt me a hand I wasn't expecting," Maggard said. "I was a daddy's girl, and Daddy was no longer with me."

Though she went on to graduate from college, she turned to a life of destructive addiction.

"I was very polarized, the me that hid in the shadows and the me who stood out front trying to save the world," Maggard said.

Her life after college was not what she and her parents had planned. Instead of going to law school, she worked low-paying jobs. She knows now, looking back, the thirst for learning kept addiction from ruining or taking her life.

After giving birth to a son, Sean, she started to see who she had become. "I made a promise to my maker that I would do better," Maggard said.

One day, opportunity knocked. She was working as a school financial aid adviser when one of the teachers died. She stepped up and taught accounting.

The experience brought back memories from her childhood, teaching the neighborhood children on her porch. "Now I was getting paid to do this. It was cool," she said.

At age 34 she married Archie Maggard, who was in the Air Force, and they set out on an adventure. Since they moved every couple of years, including tours in the Azores and Panama, she worked in a variety of fields but always looked for opportunities to teach.

When they lived in Montgomery, she knew it was time to take the next step. She earned a master's degree in teaching/psychology from Troy University.

While stationed in North Dakota, she earned her doctorate in teaching and learning from North Dakota University, which changed her life.

"Finally, everything was in place," Maggard said. "Education has empowered me to be the person I was meant to be, my vocation,"

She said seeing students learn is more powerful than addictions she faced as a young adult.

Today, she also is an adjunct professor of psychology at Alabama State University. Maggard also has worked with the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce and Montgomery Public Schools to help principals and vice principals develop leadership skills.

Through her position at the SOC and outreach opportunities with the Montgomery Public School system, she surrounds herself with others who love education. "The people who are in (SOC) love to teach and love learning," she said.

"Her expertise in and commitment to the art and craft of teaching have made her the college role model for teaching excellence," Stafford said. "We are extraordinarily blessed to have a teacher of this caliber on our team."