Rachel Geren, fourth grade elementary school teacher in Missouri.

Alumni Spotlight: Rachel Geren, M.Ed. in Educational Leadership/Principalship

Rachel Geren graduated from Park University with an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership/Principalship and currently works as a fourth grade teacher at an elementary school in Missouri. With seven years in the classroom and three years on her school’s leadership team, we asked Rachel to tell us about her experience at Park University.

Why did you want to work in education? What inspired you?

I was inspired to work in education by my own fourth-grade teacher. I remember looking up to her so much and admiring how she formed relationships with each of her students. I enjoyed coming to school and knew she looked forward to seeing us each day. She made a huge impact on me, because I realized how important a teacher can be in the life of a child. As I got older, learning became more and more important to me, and I began to realize that as an educator, I also got to be a lifelong learner. I can honestly say that not a day goes by that I don’t learn something from my students or colleagues.

Why did you choose Park University for your master’s degree in educational leadership and principalship?

I grew up in Parkville and always admired Park University’s campus. I had been teaching for five years and knew it was time to start looking at master’s programs. My first thought was Park University because I personally knew quite a few people who had attended Park for their undergraduate degrees and had positive things to say. However, when thinking about my master’s, I was also concerned about how I was going to make it work with working full-time and raising a family. After browsing the website and looking through the different programs that were offered, I knew Park would work for me and my schedule because they offered completely online programs.

What skills did you gain or sharpen through your program at Park University and how do you use them today?

My program at Park University really helped me sharpen my leadership skills when working with adults. I have always worked on a few different committees within my school, but I never felt super comfortable in a leadership role with my colleagues. After my program at Park, I feel much more equipped and comfortable in a leadership role, and have been able to feel confident when working with my colleagues, even those with many more years of experience than me.

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?

In my current position, I serve on the Leadership Committee at my building, the Student Leadership Action Team, and our Social Studies Curriculum Committee. Throughout my program at Park University, I learned many valuable lessons in regards to leadership amongst my peers, as well as with students. I completed over 300 hours of field experience and worked very closely with my building administrators. In the future, I want to move into an administrative position, and this has helped me feel very prepared for when that time comes.

What was a challenge you faced during your educational leadership/principalship program, and who or what helped you overcome it?

Honestly, the biggest challenge I faced during my educational leadership program was having a child right in the middle of my last year of the program. Not only did this make keeping up with coursework difficult, but I was on maternity leave which took me out of the educational setting. The professors at Park were so understanding and flexible, and they worked with me and my schedule. The professor I had for the particular class I was in at the time was able to help me work out how to complete my fieldwork for that class, as well as worked with me on my assignment due dates, etc. I really appreciated her understanding that we had lives going on outside of the program. I was able to complete the program successfully and even graduated with a 4.0!

What was the biggest takeaway from your master’s program?

My biggest takeaway came from my final class, which was 160 hours of field experience. Working with my administrators for that much time during the school year really opened my eyes to the workload they face, and the challenges that come with their job. It made me feel much more prepared to take that on in the future. I didn’t realize just how many responsibilities come with the job of a school administrator, and I was also unaware of many things that take place behind the scenes to make a school run smoothly. I feel much more educated and aware because of my program at Park University.

What would you tell (or what advice would you give) prospective students considering the master’s degree in educational leadership/principalship program at Park University?

I would tell a prospective student to think about what their priorities are for the program they choose. If they are looking for a flexible online program that allows them to work at their own pace, I would highly recommend Park. The professors make it easy to keep up with the coursework, but are willing to work with you when life happens. The communication of everyone at Park University is top-notch, and the program is laid out in a way that makes it easy to complete in two years while still working full-time.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

An aspect that is really nice is that you go through the program with the same cohort. I was able to form relationships with people in my cohort and reach out to them when I had a question or concern about an assignment. The professors are available via email and respond very quickly to questions. I know Park is a large university, but it really took on a small feeling when you get to know everyone you are working with for two years. Park understands that most graduate students are working with a family and are willing to make adjustments to help you be successful. I would highly recommend Park University to anyone looking for a great graduate program.