What programs do you teach at Gardner-Webb University? What drew you to this field of study? What keeps you excited about it?
I am the Program Coordinator of the Master’s of Executive Leadership Studies program in the School of Education at Gardner-Webb University. We offer a 5-semester online master’s degree program with Principal Licensure and a 3-semester online post master’s degree program that leads to Principal Licensure. I specifically teach Law and Finance as these topics most closely parallel the second half of my K-12 public education career duties and responsibilities.
I was drawn to the field of principal preparation because I had enjoyed training many young emerging school leaders in my career, and this position at Gardner-Webb was the logical next step for me. The excitement for me in this role is the interaction with students; both virtually in class and face to face when school visits are possible. I am particularly proud that prior to COVID, the Master’s Executive Leadership Studies (MELS) faculty still visited each new student at their school during their first month with us and then each semester thereafter as needed. I am hopeful that we can resume school visits sometime in the new year.
How will your program better prepare/equip educators for the current climate were in (specifically with COVID-19 and the move to online/hybrid learning)?
The MELS Program has been online only for the past five years and we’ve had the luxury of honing our craft without the time and professional pressures that many schools are experiencing now. We have mastered our online teaching platform, Blackboard, and how to build our class shells to Quality Matters standards. In the first four weeks with us, we teach our students how to use Zoom as both an instructional tool and as a collaboration tool to produce educational content.
We have adjunct teaching faculty that are sitting principals that have collaborated with full-time faculty to identify and develop clinical internship school activities for candidates to perform whether their school is face-to-face or virtual. Learning these skills and performing these activities provide our students with the ability to lead schools and instruction, regardless of the platform. This is particularly attractive to potential employers of beginning administrators who are seeking new leaders for their district that possess the appropriate skill set that allows their schools to survive and thrive in the new COVID normal.
What attracted you to teach at GWU? What sets the university apart from other institutions?
Gardner-Webb University’s Christian identity allows us as faculty to live and openly promote a life of Christian service as exemplified in our motto, “Pro Deo et Humanitie,” For God and Humanity.
What is your professional background (including degrees) as an educator?
After completing my bachelor’s and master’s degrees at North Carolina State University, I taught in a high school for five years and then became a middle school assistant principal. I then moved to the principalship for the next 17 years at the elementary, middle, junior high, and senior high level. During this time, I completed my educational specialist at Appalachian State University, my doctorate at UNC Chapel Hill, and my post-doctorate at Harvard University.
I moved to the district office in the largest school district in North Carolina for the last 10 years of my public school career in roles including Coordinator, Director, Executive Director, and Assistant Superintendent. After retiring from public K-12 education with 32 years of service, I came to Gardner-Webb University 10 years ago and have loved every moment since.
Tell us a little about yourself. Why did you become interested in education?
I grew up in a loving Christian family that prioritized church and school over all else in life. My mother taught me to read at four years of age, and I was reading to my classmates when I entered first grade at six years old. When I read E. R. Braithwaite’s 1959 novel, To Sir, with Love, and then saw the movie with Sidney Poitier in 1967, I knew I had found my career calling to become a high school teacher. Even today after all these years, I still feel the same when I hear Lulu sing the title song from the movie on the radio.
What would you tell prospective students considering your program about yourself? What’s something that students and colleagues should know about you?
Call, email, text, or Zoom; My colleagues and I are always available to talk about GWU, the MELS program, the education profession, their school, the course, or the clinical internship. I love the connection and interaction with students and faculty, but in the end it’s all about the work and professional development for students. I, and our faculty, feel a great responsibility that our students receive the knowledge and values that they are paying us for and that we add value to their lives. Last and most importantly, we as faculty seek to model the characteristics of Servant Leadership that we are striving to develop in our students.
What advice do you have for students interested in pursuing their executive leadership studies degree? How can people stand out in this field?
My advice is to understand that you are preparing to change careers; teachers work directly with children whereas school administrators work directly with adults. Working as a school administrator requires a whole new skill set, and supervising teachers requires a complete change in the lens of how you view K-12 public education. This new lens of “all decisions must be made for what is best for children” leads to a natural conflict when, as a school administrator, you work with adults; but you must make all decisions based on what is best for children. The ability to make decisions for children while still being a servant leader that inspires and motivates teachers is the secret to success in the profession.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Thank you for your time and please be sure to contact me if you have questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.