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AVON PARK, Fla. – Jan. 27, 2017 – A recent Friday saw SFSC mathematics professor James J. Moye—who drops James in favor of J.J.— holed up in classroom B310 on the Highlands Campus, a room where he teaches all his classes. Sporting a dark blue untucked SFSC T-shirt and jeans, he sat grading quizzes.
“I guess you can say I’ve belonged to SFSC ever since I was in high school,” Moye said. “After all, I attended SFSC college classes while in high school, I graduated from the Highlands Campus, and I’ve been teaching classes for the college in one form or another since I earned my bachelor’s degree and started teaching.”
Moye has been a fixture at SFSC for 25 years.
Moye teaches the most rigorous of mathematics courses on the SFSC Highlands Campus: Precalculus Algebra and Trigonometry, and Calculus II and III.
When it comes to teaching mathematics, Moye leaves no room for yield or curves. He expects much from his students. Students learn on day one that Moye doesn’t allow late entry into class. He stands out for his nontraditional approach to teaching mathematics. He asks calculus students to do the occasional term paper. Students tell others considering Moye’s courses that they should expect quizzes at the start of class. Moye said that’s the case, noting students learn when expectations are set high.
“I’m always here for my students,” said Moye, who noted he can’t recall when he last missed a teaching day. “If I’m not here, the students aren’t learning. Consequently, I expect them to be on time. So once I walk in, it’s all about me teaching them math as best as I can.”
Moye said students appreciate his approach to teaching. “I find students readily and easily accept that learning a rigorous subject matter requires focus.”
Lynn MacNeill, interim dean of Arts and Sciences, said of Moye, “I’ve known him since he was student in my speech class as a freshman. His commitment to getting his students engaged with their often difficult coursework has earned him their respect year after year.”
“He has a knack for taking difficult math problems and getting students to understand them,” said Daniel Witt, after taking a couple of courses with Moye.
“I’m going to use his approach when working with my students,” said Witt, a graduate of SFSC’s Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education program, who now teaches mathematics to fourth graders at Bowling Green Elementary School in Moye’s home county, Hardee.
It was at Hardee Senior High School that Moye discovered he had a knack for mathematics. “Math just came naturally to me,” Moye said. “Probably because I had to think about it, the concepts made sense to me.”
Moye made his first connection with SFSC while in high school. He was one of the early dually enrolled students at Hardee Senior High School, taking a regular course load through the high school while also taking college credit courses at SFSC.
His next stop was the SFSC Highlands Campus, where he earned his associate degree and the distinction of “Top Graduate” at his commencement.
After two years studying mathematics education at the University of South Florida—the only gap in time he wasn’t associated with SFSC— Moye returned to Hardee County and resumed his connection with the college by teaching dually enrolled students at his former high school.
“While teaching a class of dually enrolled students at Hardee, SFSC’s mathematics and science department chair observed me in the classroom and asked me to teach at the college,” said Moye. “First I started out as an adjunct teaching part time for a few years before coming onboard full time.”
Now in his 16th year teaching full time on the SFSC Highlands Campus, Moye recently earned two distinctions. This year, he will conclude his two-year appointment to the Carol Emery Endowed Teaching Chair, established by Emery, a retired SFSC mathematics professor and intended to honor instructors in mathematics.
“The appointment to the endowed chair came with a monetary award that I used to fund the purchase of touch board that replaces the old whiteboard and marker setup I had in my classroom,” Moye said. “This eases the mechanics of getting formulae and equations up for the students.”
In December, Moye received the 2016 President’s Meritorious Award for his excellence in the classroom. Moye said the announcement of the award came at a special moment for him.
“The award was announced at our annual holiday luncheon where I happened to be seated with Professor Emery, who had dropped by to share the holiday spirit with her former colleagues,” Moye recalled. “Receiving the award with her looking on meant a great deal to me.”
Moye credits his success in academia to his parents. “Their guidance, support, and love shaped who I am,” he said. “They never stopped stressing the importance of education to me and my brother.”
When Moye isn’t on campus, he shares a Sebring home with his wife, both of whom look forward to out-of-town trips, sometimes following Moye’s beloved Tamp Bay Rays on road games.
Between grading quizzes in his classroom in the quiet of the Friday morning, Moye thought about his bond with SFSC and how he has benefited from it, both as a student and instructor.
“My constant hope is SFSC students take time to be thankful for the opportunity to come to a college classroom as often as they can,” Moye said. “That time is such a wonderful opportunity to learn, one that should not be taken for granted.”