Karen Keppel graduated from Holy Family University with an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership and currently works as a Title I teacher for a charter school in Pennsylvania. With more than ten years in the classroom and certifications to boot, we asked this accomplished educator to share with us her journey pursuing her master’s degree at Holy Family University.
Why did you want to work in education? What inspired you?
I know that everyone responds to this question the same way, but there is a reason for that. I wanted to work in education because I love working with children; if you did not like children, then you would not do it! I have been a teacher for over thirteen years and a CYO volleyball coach for nine years. To see the light in the children’s eyes and the smiles on their faces when they “get it,” makes me feel like I have accomplished something.
I had some really great teachers in my twelve years of Catholic school. In my senior year of high school, my Russian history teacher turned my hatred of history into love. I do not know how he did it because we had to read, “Nicholas and Alexandra”, a book of over 1,000 pages, in addition to our textbook. Now, one of my teaching certifications is in middle school history.
Why did you choose Holy Family University for your master’s degree in educational leadership?
I chose Holy Family University for my master’s degree in educational leadership for several reasons. In the beginning of 2017, I had been teaching for more than ten years, and I decided it was time to start planning the next step in my career. As it turns out, someone had put a flyer for Holy Family in my mailbox at work. I took this as a sign from God, and he was telling me to get a move on! I called Holy Family and asked some questions about the program. I liked that I was able to obtain my principal certification and master’s in educational leadership at the same time and in less than two years. Classes were either completely online or a hybrid of online and face-to-face. I chose the hybrid option because I wanted to get to know my professors and classmates in person. Finally, I chose Holy Family because it was a Catholic university.
What skills did you gain or sharpen through your program at Holy Family University and how do you use them today?
The skill that I would say was affirmed and sharpened through the program was my collaborative leadership skill. I believe that decisions should be made by all parties that are affected by them. In a school, the entire school community, both inside and out, is affected by the decisions that are made by administration. In my readings and research at Holy Family, the most successful schools are those where everyone takes part in the decision-making process.
How has your educational leadership degree impacted you in terms of your current position or a position you’d like to attain in the future?
My new degree has impacted me both negatively and positively. Initially, I lost my job at the end of the last school year because I was looking for more of a leadership role for this year. However, they did not have one, and so, did not offer me a position. There was a lot of staff and student turnover at the school and my guess is that they were afraid I would leave them in the middle of the year. However, I am working on a project that will be my dream job, if all my guardian angels can work overtime for me these next several months. The leadership skills I acquired through my program have been important during this transition.
What was a challenge you faced during your educational leadership program, and who or what helped you overcome it?
The biggest challenge I faced during the program was completing all of the assignments during the eight-week semesters. There is a lot of writing in each course, and the courses are condensed into a really short amount of time. I got through it by making sure I put aside the same time period each week to do the work, which ended up being my weekends. I also had the help of my fellow classmates. I came to look forward to and dread Sundays because my cell phone would start going off with text notifications Sunday morning into the night. Our assignments were usually due by 11:59 p.m. that night. So, we would all be texting one another about the assignments due that week. Sometimes these texts were words of encouragement because one week was more challenging for some of us than others. My cohort was filled with really great women.
What was the biggest takeaway from your educational leadership program?
My biggest takeaway from the program would have to be the friendships and connections I have made. As I stated previously, the women in my cohort group were terrific, and we still keep in touch with one another.
What would you tell (or what advice would you give) prospective students considering the educational leadership master’s program at Holy Family University?
I would tell anyone considering the program at Holy Family University to go for it! The professors are great and know what they are talking about. If you can do it, the hybrid classes are the way to go. You only meet three times during the eight-week session, which are weeks 1, 5, and 7. There are satellite locations for these sessions; my classes were held at Monsignor Bonner/Archbishop Prendergast High School, which is fifteen minutes from my house. Finally, these sessions are intense and fast-paced, so do not schedule anything else during the eighteen months you will be attending. Most of those in my cohort did go on summer vacation, but just make sure you don’t schedule it during a week when you have an in-class session. I did come away from it better prepared to be an educational leader.