Instructor fights child abuse, wins award


Margaret Presley, instructor of social work at K-State-Salina, was named the Social Worker of the Year by the Smoky Hill Association of Social Workers. The award recognized her for her accomplishments in the social work field, and as an instructor at Bethany College and K-State-Salina.

“I choked up when I got it. I didn’t think I was going to do that. I was very delighted to get it,” Presley said. “As my colleagues keep telling me, it’s an award they don’t have to give you. It’s very nice to get recognition for what you have done.”

The Smoky Hill Association of Social Workers is open to Kansas-licensed social workers, retired social workers, people with a degree in social work and social work students. The goals of the organization include promoting continuing education, promoting a sense of community among social workers and promoting community recognition of social work as a profession.

Their activities include recognizing an exceptional social worker, such as Presley, with the Social Worker of the Year award. Presley recieved her award at a luncheon in March, which is National Social Workers’ month.

Before coming to K-State, Presley had first-hand experience working in the social work field. She began in 1970 with a job at the Wyandotte County Juvenile Court serving as a probation officer and child abuse intake supervisor.

Since then, she has worked in the Division of Child Psychiatry for the University of Kansas Medical Center, the Wyandotte Mental Health Center, the Marillac Center for Children in Kansas City and Bethany College. She was also involved in a group that helped instate mandated court laws and programs about child abuse in Kansas.

“I consider it a real privilege that I was in at the right time to be in on the ground floor of those programs,” Presley said. “It gave me an incredibly unique perspective on families and this area.”

When Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kan. announced the end of its social work program last year, Presley, along with others, looked for another university to help educate area students in social work. K-State-Salina started their current program in August 2011.

Currently, there are 25 students in the social work program, according to the K-State-Salina website.

“When Bethany announced the closing of its social work program, Margaret didn’t lose faith in the importance of social work training in our area of the state,” said Deb Marseline, member of the Smoky Hill Association of Social Workers, and former student of Presley’s, in a letter of support for Presley’s award. “She pursued other universities and was instrumental in getting the Kansas State University – Salina social work program up and running.”

According to Presley, her experience in the social work field has helped her be an effective instructor.

“All my previous jobs have been a real asset to me and my teaching. My students probably get sick of my stories of different things, but they still help illustrate the skills that are necessary in the field,” Presley said.

As a past student, Marseline attested to Presley’s quality of teaching.

“She was good at knowing students and challenging and knowing what they need to know and learn,” Marseline said. “She would help them get enough field experience so they would be ready. She has grounded the local students in the ethics and values of the program. Sometimes in the field, it’s hard to do the right thing. Making sure we have a strong foundation in ethics is very important.”

David Norlin, associate professor at K-State-Salina, has worked with Presley for more than 20 years, first at Bethany College, and now at K-State-Salina. He spoke highly of Presley’s work ethic and dedication to her professional career.

“She, of course, works very hard,” Norlin said. “She tends to be the kind of person who works late. She will work until 11, 12 or 1 o’clock. She doesn’t go to bed until everything is done for the next day.”

Her extensive experience in the social work and academic fields make her deserving of the award, Norlin said.

“She has quite a remarkable career,” Norlin said. “She has had real experience in child welfare and was really involved in the early stages of child abuse prevention. She’s done a lot.”

Although she said she appreciates the award, Presley said she’s going to continue to work and improve.

“I’m not too many years from retiring,” she said. “I loved what I did before, but I enjoy teaching. I will stay with teaching however long I work, as long as they don’t get rid of me.”