NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Dr. John C. Pruit, a Stephen F. Austin State University assistant professor of sociology, has learned the lessons taught in preschool often have the ability to go beyond classroom walls.

“Analytically, the preschool teacher is a simplified social identity, but preschool teaching is strikingly complex in everyday practice,” said Pruit. “With my research, I wanted to show that how preschool teachers teach is anything but straightforward.”

Pruit focuses his research on preschool teachers and classroom settings — an interest that began from both an analytical and personal standpoint. When his own son entered preschool, Pruit found himself wondering what he could do better in regards to understanding both the constraints of and constructs within the classroom.

Studying education and preschool teachers in particular has influenced Pruit’s own teaching style. Through his research, he has realized that preschool teachers both teach and care for their students, which is something he tries to achieve in his own interactions with college students.

“I try to approach my students with compassion and let them know that I care about them and want them to succeed,” Pruit said. “Sometimes they just need someone to listen to them and validate their experience.

“I also often talk to students about the times I have failed at doing things well. This allows my students to see that I am human and, like all humans, I make mistakes; but these mistakes are often opportunities to learn.”

Using a constructivist approach, he engages students in critically thinking about how sociology, especially sociological theory, is applicable to their everyday lives.

Along with studying education, Pruit’s research areas include narrative, identity and sociology of early childhood, deviance and sociological social psychology.

“I’m interested in how people put their lives together within institutional contexts,” Pruit said. “I prefer to do research in the settings in which I talk and interact.”

Pruit holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Memphis and a doctoral degree in sociology from the University of Missouri. Prior to joining SFA’s College of Liberal and Applied Arts faculty in 2016, Pruit was a visiting assistant professor at Pennsylvania State University in Abington.

He has authored several journal articles and textbooks, and recently published a book, “Between Teaching and Caring in Preschool: Talk, Interaction, and the Preschool Teacher Identity,” where he used ethnographic and interview data to analyze how preschool teachers construct institutional identities. He is a member of the American Sociological Association, the Midwest Sociological Society and the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction.

Most recently, Pruit received the Teaching Excellence Award for being an outstanding faculty member in the College of Liberal and Applied Arts. The Teaching Excellence Award is based on knowledge of subject matter, quality of lectures and assignments, enthusiasm for teaching, commitment to continuous improvement, contribution to the quality of teaching at SFA by assisting and encouraging other faculty members, and interest in and availability to students.

“Receiving the Teaching Excellence Award is humbling and validating. I am fortunate to be a part of the education of some of the best students at SFA and in the state of Texas,” said Pruit. “My job is more meaningful because my students are learning to think about the social world in a thoughtful, imaginative and critical manner.”