Dr. Joseph Harris graduated from Georgetown College with an M.Ed. in Learning Behavior Disorders (LBD) and currently works as a principal for an elementary school in Kentucky. As an accomplished educator with experience both inside and outside of the classroom, we asked Dr. Harris to share with us his experience at Georgetown College.
Why did you want to work in education? What inspired you?
Growing up in rural eastern Kentucky from a background of generational poverty, education has always been a way out for me. At a young age, I developed a love for learning and my teachers became role models for me. It was during my 11th grade year of high school that I truly realized my passion for becoming an educator. That year, I was fortunate to cross paths with Mrs. Martha Williams and Mrs. Marcie Hanson. These teachers inspired me to become an educator because they made such a difference in my life. They taught me to believe in myself and made me realize I wanted to make that same difference in the lives of others.
Why did you choose Georgetown College for your M.Ed. degree in learning and behavior disorders?
I always wanted to earn a degree from Georgetown College. It was the small, family-like atmosphere that always drew me in and the fact that everyone I knew who had attended this college went on to be successful in their chosen careers. I did earn an associates and bachelor’s degree before attending Georgetown College, but when I decided to obtain a degree in special education, I knew Georgetown College was the place for me. I had heard of how knowledgeable the LBD professors were and I wanted to learn from the best in one of the best programs in Kentucky.
What skills did you gain or sharpen through your program at Georgetown College and how do you use them today?
Through the LBD program at Georgetown College, I gained a great deal of experience and skills. I learned how to work with students from various backgrounds and with various disabilities and behaviors. I learned how to differentiate to meet the needs of various learners. As I was working through the LBD program, I was teaching high school English. I was able to apply what I was learning about meeting the needs of various students directly to my classroom. Eventually, I was able to work in a split role as an English teacher and special education teacher and was able to work effectively with learners at all levels.
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?
As a principal now, I still use what I learned in the LBD program at Georgetown College to support the teachers in my school. I am able to coach teachers on how to meet the needs of various learners in their classrooms. As an administrator, I have also been given the opportunity to chair many ARC meetings for students with IEPs and having a knowledge of Learning and Behavior Disorders has helped me to lead these meetings with more confidence and understanding. I am considering taking a few more classes beyond my doctorate degree to obtain certification as a Director of Special Education (DOSE) so that I can serve special education students at a wider level.
What was a challenge you faced during your learning behavior disorders program, and who or what helped you overcome it?
One challenge I faced during my learning behavior disorders program was just balancing the graduate workload with a full-time English teaching position. However, my professors were understanding and worked with me to ensure that I was successful in the program. Likewise, one of my daughters became ill during my time in the program and there was a short period of time that I was struggling with time management. I reached out to my professors and they were willing to work with me to get me through that tough period of my life. I found then that Georgetown College’s Christian values were real and that the people who work there really do care about the people they serve.
What was the biggest takeaway from your learning behavior disorders program?
The biggest takeaway from the learning behavior disorders program was that every student is capable of learning and growing, some just need some extra attention, strategies, support, and time. The goal of special education is not to just get a student through school, but to provide supports along that way that will eventually be faded so that students are able to stand on their own and be successful adults.
What would you tell (or what advice would you give) prospective students considering the M.Ed. learning behavior disorders degree program at Georgetown College?
For those considering the M.Ed. learning and behavior disorders degree program at Georgetown College, I would say go for it. The program at Georgetown is one of the best programs in Kentucky and the professors are outstanding and understanding. You will learn a great deal about how to reach students at all levels. You will become a better teacher as you work your way through this program – I did and I am thankful for the experiences and knowledge I gained while at Georgetown College.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Currently, I am employed as an adjunct professor at Georgetown College. Not only was I fortunate enough to obtain my degree in Learning and Behavior Disorders there, but now I am blessed to be able to serve and prepare other special education teachers in this same program. It has been an honor to work alongside some of the same professors who prepared me so well for meeting the needs of various learners, and I am thankful I am now able to give back by teaching others how to do the same.