Betsy Bedell graduated from Point Park University with her Principal Certification and currently works as an assistant principal for a middle school in Pennsylvania. With more than two decades of experience in the classroom, we asked Betsy to tell us about her time as an educator and pursuing her administrative certification at Point Park University.
Why did you want to work in education? What inspired you?
I vividly remember a conversation I had with my dad when I was 12. I told him I wanted to be either a teacher or a doctor, but I didn’t know which. He pointed out, “In both of those careers you help people. It just depends on how you want to help.” His words compelled me to pursue a career in education. So did the story of Jaime Escalante, the Garfield High School math teacher who challenged his historically underperforming students to pass the AP calculus exam. I loved that he convinced students to believe they could accomplish something hard, and I was compelled to inspire that confidence in my own students. I’ve since dedicated my career to helping students believe in themselves.
Why did you choose Point Park University for your principal certification?
As a single parent working full-time, I needed a fully online program that provided flexibility. Point Park’s program provides exactly this, with accelerated courses that are structured to allow participants to complete much of each week’s work largely on their own timeframe. At the same time, I liked that the program followed a cohort model. I was able to connect with other professionals with similar career goals. Our discussions provided the depth and varied perspectives we needed to grow our knowledge as educators. I also appreciated that the faculty instructors had real-world, practical experience as administrators. Their knowledge helped to shape my thinking as an educational leader.
What skills did you gain or sharpen through your program at Point Park University and how do you use them today?
Through the certification program, I honed the skill of self-reflection. Teaching is a reflective practice, and as a seasoned teacher, I’ve spent years reflecting on instruction and student achievement. However, the change in perspective that came with studying the administrative side of this practice showed me a different reason for reflection. This was fueled by the conversations with members of my cohort as well as by my professors who challenged my thinking. This shift has been critical to my role as an assistant principal. Reflecting at the end of each day, considering how my actions impact not only students but also faculty, parents, staff, the culture of the building, the community, and the district as a whole, provides tremendous opportunity for growth.
How has your certification impacted you in terms of your current position or a position you’d like to attain in the future?
This certification has, in a very serendipitous way, allowed my career goals to fall into place. Upon completing the program last January, I took the PRAXIS exam the same week that I interviewed for a middle school assistant principal position in the district where I had taught high school English for 17 years. I was offered and accepted the position. A principal certification was something I had wanted for my career for quite some time, but life’s circumstances prevented it until I found Point Park University’s program, which allowed me to manage the responsibilities of my life, my career, and my education simultaneously. Moving forward, I’m confident that I will pursue a building principalship and a doctoral degree, both made possible because of Point Park’s program.
What was a challenge you faced during your principal certification program, and who or what helped you overcome it?
A challenge I faced during the administrative certification program was shifting my perspective from that of a teacher to that of a building leader. As teachers, we often have a narrow focus; we think about how things impact our students or our classrooms. Shifting to a more global understanding of school operations, the varied responsibilities that rest on a leader’s shoulders, all the while ensuring the academic, social, and emotional well-being of students, was eye-opening. The internship hours provided the opportunity to observe and participate in the complexities of the work of an administrator, and I was able to see how all the pieces work together to accomplish a common goal.
What was the biggest takeaway from your certification program?
This administrative program gave me the power to determine who I aspire to be as a leader and the confidence to make that happen. I’ve always been dedicated to a career in service, and transitioning that passion to my leadership style will allow me to continue to grow as an educational leader. Finding myself so quickly in a leadership role upon the completion of my program, I’m well on my way to fulfilling my career goals, and I’m still focused on helping others.
What would you tell (or what advice would you give) prospective students considering the principal certification program at Point Park University?
Embarking on this program is one of the best things I’ve done for myself, for my career, and for my family. I encourage those who are looking to advance their career in education to consider this program as a way to develop their knowledge of themselves as a leader and to learn what it takes to effectively and successfully run a building. The work is both rewarding and challenging. Because of this program, I am well prepared to handle those challenges, and I love that each day brings new learning.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
As a new administrator, there are days that I miss teaching very much. On these days, the best remedy is going into a classroom, sitting with students, and watching the magic of learning happen. Knowing that I have a part in protecting and growing the educational process for both teachers and students, and working to continue to build relationships with students, has made all the difference.