COE grads James and Suzanne Culbreth find meaningful way to give back

December 2, 2016


James and Suzanne CulbrethJames and Suzanne Culbreth, our featured donors for December, are both graduates of the College of Education. James received his degree in 1980, majoring in Recreation and Administration, while Suzanne completed her degree in Secondary Education, with an emphasis in Biology and Mathematics. Both have gone on for advanced degrees, with Suzanne earning National Board Certification as well as a Master’s in Secondary Science and Math from Montevallo. She serves as a Master Teacher in the UABTeach Program.

Although James stayed in education, he took a different direction when he graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. James has served churches in the Deep South for the past three decades, and now oversees the adult education ministries as Discipleship Pastor at Meadow Brook Baptist Church in Birmingham.

“For years now, we have given a little bit of money here and there to the College of Education,” James said. “I was in the band so I would also send $100 or so to them every now and then. Suzanne pretty much did the same. But we recently saw an opportunity to participate at a higher level by becoming members of the Dean’s Circle. This is the most money we have given anywhere except our church, and we thought that maybe by doing this we could encourage others to do something that is both greater and bigger than ourselves. And giving to the College of Education is exactly that – greater and bigger than ourselves.”

Suzanne agrees, and knows that her Auburn education played a huge part in her success as a teacher. Among many other awards and recognitions, Suzanne was Alabama’s Teacher of the Year in 2012-13. The previous year she was honored by President Obama with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching.

“I have been in classrooms for over 30 years with five different school systems,” she said. “My emphasis has always been on helping my students succeed, and I have come to realize what a great job the College of Education did for me and is doing right now. It is producing great teachers with a passion for students. I have had many, many opportunities to see our graduates in the classroom. I may be a bit biased, but the math and science teachers that are coming out of Auburn are well prepared and exceptional. I know from my own professional experience that the professors in our College of Education are highly respected state-wide and nationally. They are truly working to make a difference. As Teacher of the Year I was able to visit many schools around the state and I never passed up an opportunity to brag on Auburn and our College of Education!”

In her work at UAB with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) students, Suzanne is part of a unique program that allows these majors to also earn a teaching certificate in the same four years.

“Our goal is to help reduce the shortage of STEM teachers in our schools,” she said. “We need more math and science teachers and this program is the only one like it in Alabama. I really see it encouraging our majors every day. They are committed to making a real difference. They begin the program as freshmen and move up through the different grades with field experiences while learning to teach with inquiry. When they graduate they have extensive pedagogical experience, plus the critical knowledge in the STEM disciplines.”

“I’ve been fortunate to have a wonderful career in the classroom, but it all goes back to the solid foundation and inspiration I received at Auburn,” she said. “James and I are happy that we made the decision to support the College like we are doing, and we encourage others to consider doing this as well. We’ve all been there. We know how great the College is. Let’s do our part to share that greatness with future generations.”

To find out how you can make an impact through being a Dean’s Circle member, visit, http://www.education.auburn.edu/deans-circle.