Dr. Sam Ayers’ life’s work has been educating and developing the love of learning in young people. Driven by an infectious curiosity and an inquisitive nature, he has taught, mentored, and inspired students for over 39 years. Sam began as a fifth-grade classroom teacher, but in the next few years that followed, he taught first graders and then a combined class of second and third graders. Over the next 34 years, he held positions of instructional specialist, assistant principal, principal, regional director of Texas Core Knowledge, West Texas coordinator for National Core Knowledge, assistant superintendent for elementary education, associate superintendent for teaching and learning K-12, associate professor, and professor. He currently serves in LCU’s School of Education as the Director of Graduate Education.

Sam Ayers has been working for LCU's School of Education for over thirty years.
His extensive experience as an educator fuels his passion for innovative ways to engage his students and encourage them to become life-long learners. Ayers holds a Doctor of Education and has an extensive record of his own professional development and scholarly achievement, but he is fueled by guiding students in a variety of settings. He has been a long-time mentor in LCU’s undergraduate research program, having recently worked with several students who conducted projects of their own: Jalee Sims (’22), Alyssa Matheus (’22), and Hailey Gregory (’22)—each of whom published or presented their research at conferences.

While Jalee Sims was completing her middle school education degree, she approached Dr. Ayers with a proposal to determine the most effective strategies to use when mentoring undergraduate research students. Jalee presented her research and final conclusions on “Effective Undergraduate Research Mentoring Practices” at the Association of Christian Educator Preparation Programs Conference during her final semester in the fall of 2022. Ms. Sims was also selected as the 2022 Christine DeVitt Research Scholar by LCU’s Rhodes Family Institute for Undergraduate Research.

Dr. Ayers has forged countless relationships with students throughout his decades of work, and that passion for learners is one that he passes onto countless teachers across the state.
As an early childhood education major, Alyssa Mattheus encountered a research problem during the Integrated Social Studies course taught by Dr. Ayers. It was during this class that she discovered that credible resources for teaching social studies classes are often difficult to secure. Alyssa took the lead on the project to develop instructional materials for social studies educators. As an undergraduate student, Mattheus was invited to present her findings to professional educators at the Texas Council for Social Studies State Conference. Dr. Ayers was her co-presenter for “Electing the Governor: Who is the Best Candidate?”

Hailey Gregory graduated in December 2022 with an early childhood education degree. With the mentorship of Dr. Ayers, she was able to publish an article in a mainstream social studies journal as an undergraduate student – a major accomplishment and one that will set her up for future scholarly pursuits. Getting an article published in a major academic journal is a goal of most professional scholars, but one that often isn’t attained until graduate school or later. Hailey’s article offers practical applications that could be used by elementary social studies teachers across the state. The article “Teaching About the Branches of Government” was co-authored by Gregory and Ayers and was published in The Social Studies TEXAN.

These three outstanding examples illustrate Dr. Ayers’ successful mentorship of his students, who through such guidance are poised for distinguished service in their future classrooms and are equipped to contribute further to research in the field of education. Whether they pursue a graduate degree or simply desire to find the best practices to help shape the students in their classrooms, they are fully prepared for a lifetime of teaching and learning.