Kate Little graduated from Concordia University Irvine with an M.A.Ed. in Educational Administration and currently works as a seventh-grade English teacher for a tech school in California. We asked Kate to tell us about her time at Concordia University Irvine and pursuing her master’s degree in educational administration. Hear what she had to say below.
Why did you want to work in education? What inspired you?
During my undergraduate years, I found great meaning in spending my spare time tutoring children in shelters. Once I graduated, rather than continue work in my field of human services, I volunteered with AmeriCorps at a Catholic elementary school in San Francisco, CA. I learned that many of the joys I had discovered in social work were also rooted in teaching; furthermore, I found that my connection with children was stronger in education where I was able to interact with them daily in the classroom and during student activities.
Why did you choose Concordia University Irvine for your M.A.Ed. educational administration degree?
I spent a good amount of time looking for a graduate program that fulfilled my educational, professional, and personal needs. My lifestyle included a job, a spouse who traveled frequently, and two young children. Having to commute to a class would be difficult. However, I wanted to have the experience of learning with a cohort and having “real time” with fellow students and my professors.
The blended model of a synchronous meeting every other week met my desire to connect with my learning community. In addition, I valued the low student-to-professor ratio, as it allowed for more personalized learning and feedback. I also realized the online program would create a geographical diversity among professors and students, which would positively impact my learning about the functioning and methodologies of other districts throughout California.
What skills did you gain or sharpen through your program at Concordia University Irvine and how do you use them today?
Through my program at Concordia University Irvine, I became acutely aware of my communication style. Many of the projects required working with other candidates who had their own commitments and time constraints. Since we never met in person as a group, we had to determine the best way to communicate, whether it was through email, Google Hangout, etc. We had to make an effort to connect to share our contributions, provide time to preview each other’s work, and allow for a collegial discussion and review of material before final revisions were made. This also allowed me to practice receiving and offering professional, constructive feedback. Additionally, it required me to be extremely disciplined with the timeline out of respect to my partners and our commitment to each other’s success.
How has your master’s degree impacted you in terms of your current position or a position you’d like to attain in the future?
My master’s degree has impacted the way the administration team has valued me as a source of knowledge and insight. During my practicum, I requested for new experiences to broaden my expertise and skill set. I was invited to meet with leaders in the district and enter conversations about district decisions such as LCAP. My principal allowed me to stand by her in recruitment and community events, professional development, and instructional leadership. Since I was displaying an interest in administration, I was included in leadership team meetings, asked to be the chair for multiple departments, and involved in the interview process for our incoming principal. As a result, the program increased the number of areas where I feel confident and versed in if I enter a position where high-level conversations are occurring.
What was a challenge you faced during your educational administration program, and who or what helped you overcome it?
I was challenged by finding time to complete my practicum hours. I started to think outside of the box and completed them beyond the school day. I searched for opportunities such as community events, conferences, or meetings that were scheduled during the weekend or at night. Looking beyond my scope and understanding of what was available for professional development to what was available countywide positively influenced my experiences. In addition, I also asked my principal for responsibilities that I could complete from home using digital resources and tools, such as organizing a whole school community assembly. By being creative to meet my time constraints, I organically discovered other influential learning opportunities.
What was the biggest takeaway from your educational administration program?
Having taught for over fifteen years in alternative, traditional, and private schools, I thought I had a sturdy understanding of how schools functioned. However, now I am able to look at education through the lenses at the local, state, and federal levels. I am able to speak knowledgeably among stakeholders not only at my professional site but also at my children’s school. I am empowered to share what I have learned with colleagues, principals, and families about the educational system, including topics related to laws, committees, and decision-making factors. I have been enlightened in such ways that I am propelled to ask questions I would not have known to ask before taking courses at Concordia University Irvine.
Having my work experience limited to one Catholic school district and one public school district, I was under the belief that districts worked similarly in regards to their respective budgets, hiring procedures, etc. However, with the exposure to classmates from districts across the state, I realized how unique each district’s personality and inner workings are.
What would you tell (or what advice would you give) prospective students considering the M.A.Ed. educational administration degree program at Concordia University Irvine?
I would encourage any professional who is interested in pursuing the M.A.Ed. educational administration degree to complete it at Concordia University Irvine. The program is incredibly interesting, meaningful, flexible, and helpful. Even if a teacher does not plan on entering an administrative position right after the program, it will provide insight to his or her current role in his or her school and community. There is enough flexibility within each course that a student can focus on topics that seem most relevant to the student; however, the benefit of the synchronous meetings is that a student then learns beyond the curriculum due to other students’ presentations, experience, and research that is introduced during that meeting time. This program teaches practical information and has seasoned professors who are approachable, currently leading in the educational field, and willing to help and clarify as needed.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
As educators we realize our students will always be our students. I felt this guidance even as a graduate student when one professor offered to conduct practice interviews for any future administrative positions for which we applied. This speaks to the incredibly supportive learning environment at Concordia University Irvine.