After graduating from BJU in 1960, Cleo Campbell was hired as a high school math teacher in Maryland. She earned her master’s degree in education in 1964. Throughout her years of teaching, Cleo became known for her extraordinary methods of making math approachable for her students. She was labeled a teacher’s teacher because of her ability and willingness to help other teachers become more skilled in their craft and calling as educators. During her career, Cleo was a classroom teacher, an assistant principal, a contributing author of algebra textbooks, the county mathematics supervisor, and a member of the county school board. As a public recognition of her expertise and excellence in the classroom, the state of Maryland gave her the Math Educator of the Year award. In a newspaper article written about Cleo’s award, fellow educators described Cleo as irreplaceable and thought the award should be renamed Math Educator of the Decade to better describe how important Cleo was to Maryland’s entire approach to math education.
ONCE A TEACHER, ALWAYS A TEACHER
When she retired from the Maryland public school system after 33 years, she continued teaching in a Christian High School, led a team from Sylvan Learning Centers to update their math education objectives and curriculum, supervised student teachers at Johns Hopkins University, and when the Egyptian Department of Education came to Maryland wanting their teachers trained in math education, Cleo was asked to teach half of those sessions.
OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM
But Cleo’s lifetime achievement cannot be viewed just through the lens of her work- her career. Yes, she was an extraordinary teacher by the accounts of her students, fellow teachers, fellow administrators, and the state of Maryland. But to those who have been served, mentored, and supported by her, they might claim Cleo’s ultimate achievement is how she lives her life outside the classroom. To use a familiar distinction in our BJU community, Cleo is that ever-steady, necessary, not flashy, hardworking back hall light.
If someone needed tutoring, they asked Cleo. If a Sunday School class needed a teacher, Cleo volunteered. If the youth group needed a leader, Cleo was there. If no one could lead the church choir, Cleo stepped in. If a fellow church member or family member needed physical care, Cleo provided that assistance.
One of the hallmarks of Cleo’s service and commitment to being a gospel light was her support of young people going to Christian camps. For over 20 years, Cleo and a friend ran a side business selling used books to earn enough money to send kids to camps, like the Wilds. Camp was near to her heart because as a young girl, she was saved at Camp Nathaniel in Kentucky- a camp she continues to support.
FOR THE SAKE OF THE GOSPEL
The 2009 alum who nominated Cleo for this Lifetime Achievement award said of Cleo:
“She’s lived and spoken the Gospel faithfully to others in both her professional and private roles. I think she’s a great example [of I Corinthians 7- leveraging every aspect of her circumstances for the sake of the Gospel]. And I wanted to share her story, because I think she embodies the kind of graduate that BJU has labored to produce.”
One of Cleo’s very first students– now a lifelong friend and neighbor– describes Cleo as never idle, loved by all, a committed caregiver, and someone with a heart for souls, especially those in her family. When this former student was a child, she had to sit out of school for a year due to a serious illness. Cleo came to her home and taught her during that year, but more importantly, Cleo introduced her to Christ. Not only did she live out the gospel, she spoke the gospel and invited people to come hear the gospel preached. Cleo took this former student to a conference where Bob Jones Jr was preaching the gospel. And by God’s grace, the student repented of her sins and accepted Christ as her Savior.
When asked about the insight she has gained over her lifetime, she responded, [to] “Trust the Lord with everything, spend time with Him every day, live for Him, and He will guide you through.”
For a career pursuing and achieving excellence in the classroom, for a lifetime of serving others in every needed capacity, and for her commitment to the gospel, Alumni Relations at BJU is honored to present a 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award to Cleo Campbell.