Catching up with TJ McAvene

Posted by Rachel O'Connor on November 2, 2020

Have you seen a change in terms of Ashland last semester versus this semester?

It has been a lot different, obviously with them letting us on campus once in a while, it's kind of nice. It is a little crazy with everyone like wearing masks all of the time and everything along with spacing out a whole lot. And last semester we all had to leave and go straight online so that was a lot to adjust to.

Is there a staff member or maybe a professor that has impacted you or your education in any way, if so, what makes them so great?

I have got to give a shoutout to my academic advisor Kristina Cunningham. She, from the beginning, was always really helpful to me and my fiance. Even now she will still email me once in a while and check up to see how i am doing and it is really helpful. She is really good at what she does. She is really helpful to a lot of students like me.

Do you have an idea of what you’d like to do after graduation? Why?

I am planning on getting married as soon as I graduate, well the summer after I graduate. I am going to be graduating in the wintertime so that will be kind of interesting going into the education field. I'll either be permanent subbing or maybe getting my foot in the door somewhere. It will be an interesting time to figure out where I am going halfway through a school year trying to get into a teaching gig. 

What's a question you would ask a hiring manager in your field?

I am always looking for advice. I would talk to those kinds of people and I would ask them what ways can I be flexible? I know that I need to be flexible in the classroom as far as adjusting my curriculum and adjusting the way that I deliver the material but what ways can I be flexible in terms of my availability and the way that students can access me even though we cannot be in the classroom at all times. 

What are some of the challenges you see within your industry?

Developing relationships with students. That is the most critical thing that students have is a good relationship with their teachers. I think that's one of the main reasons I want to be a teacher is to have that relationship with students and to be able to have an opportunity to positively impact them. Whether that is in the classroom or whether that is in their social life. I want to be able to make them feel better about themselves and let them know that they matter and they have an opportunity to make this great future for them no matter what hand life has dealt them.

Do you have an idea on how you’ll better create those relationships with your students?

It all starts with the teacher taking an interest in the student and what they honestly care about. I can be as passionate as I want about football but if I have a student who does not care about football at all, everything I have to say about that topic is going to go in one ear and out the other. I need to find out what my students like, what are their personality traits, what are their interests. That does not mean I am going to be fake or trying to be everyone's best friend. If you have someone who is in authority over you and they make an effort to get to know you and what you care about you will create an instant bond with that person. I think that is the best way to reach them and get them to not only understand the material but also understand that someone cares about them.

What do you think are the most important skills that will help you land and hit the ground running after graduation? Are there classes that will help you achieve your goals?

They have definitely taught me a lot about diversity in the classroom and how not all students come from the same background. I have grown up around Ashland, it is not the most diverse city.  There are a lot of different cultures out there that are not represented where I grew up. Being able to reach these students needs to be done in different ways depending on the way that they grew up. I need to learn how to adapt in each situation and approach each interaction differently depending on the students background knowledge, what their upbringing is a big difference. 

I have taken a lot of psychology and sociology classes that have been really helpful. At first I wasn’t sure how learning about parts of the brain was going to advance me in the classroom but I have been able to take a lot of the things I have learned in those classes and put them into practice. I do a lot of volunteering at my church and I teach sunday school classes and I teach our junior church program. I am able to take these teaching techniques that I am learning in all of these different classes and a lot of the principles that I'm learning in my psychology and sociology classes and I am able to witness them happening in a first person view. It is really cool to make that connection.


TJ is one of over two hundred students that take advantage of tuition discounts through the Corporate Partners Program at Ashland University. The Corporate Partners program is an employee benefit opportunity for external companies. It was created to provide access to training and educational opportunities that help shape both personal and professional development. To learn more information about this program or to see if you qualify, you can call 419.207.6759 or email