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Margaret Clifford: Scholar, Persuader, Teacher

by Tyler Hilbert

This year marks Professor Margaret Clifford’s tenth year teaching here at West Virginia University at Parkersburg. Professor Clifford has a bachelor’s degree in English Language in Literature from San Francisco and a Masters in Communications from West Virginia University.  When she started here she was teaching Remedial English, which was part of a program of affordable classes for adults who had very little education. After teaching that for a while, she realized that teaching was her passion.

Professor Clifford graduated from high school at 17 and continued her education at the University of HAIFA in Israel.  She studied Bible, Hebrew and Archeology.

“I served a year with VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) and I got a job/assignment in Big Ugly Creek to setup a computer lab in an isolated Appalachian community.  I worked for five years and if you work with them for five years, you get a five thousand dollar grant to be used for books or tuition, etc.… and I thought I needed to go back to school, so I did,” Clifford said.

After serving with VISTA and working in West Virginia Ms. Clifford decided to go back to school.

“I ended up living in Parkersburg. I took a psychology class and I had to do a big presentation, I was thinking about going to law school, but my professor at the time came up to me after my presentation and told me I should be teaching and I knew then that I should,” Clifford said.  

Going back to school after being away for so long wasn’t easy for her, but thanks to one professor’s insight into her she was able to realize teaching is what she needed to do.

“What I love most about teaching is what I call the “lightbulb” moment. If you’re presenting an idea that students have not been exposed to before and their attitude changes they may or may not be interested, but I know I got them thinking and that’s what matters.”

“I just laugh when I hear people talk about crime or it being unsafe in Parkersburg and around here.  If I worked for a college in Philadelphia, I couldn’t leave my purse to buy a pretzel, I couldn’t leave my car windows down.  You can do that here, and that’s why I love being able to teach here.”

West Virginia University at Parkersburg values safety and making sure students here feel protected and safe.  Compared to Philadelphia, Parkersburg does have a much lower crime rate.

“Sometimes you never realize what you have or what kind of life you live until you go somewhere else and see what life is like for the locals there,”

Professor Clifford really saw this after she moved here and became involved in the community.

“I grew up in a row house in Philadelphia, I went to catholic schools and I never would have said I was a person of privilege. I would associate that with the rich, while I never thought I came from privilege I got an excellent education from the nuns, I was in the orchestra and I saw some of the greatest composers and then I came here and when my students write something like I’d like to see the ocean once, it breaks my heart and I realized as a kid in Philadelphia what I had, what was at my feet I realize now that was a certain kind of privilege. It’s just that so many students here don’t have that and I want to be able to give it to them.”


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