Hometown: Rockford, Ill.
Program: Ph.D. Educational Psychology
What inspired you to pursue this degree/career? I am in my 13th year as a seventh-grade English and social studies teacher at Abbott Middle School in Elgin U-46. Originally, I was teaching gifted education and was curious of how I could support my students better. The same summer I started the Ph.D. program, I also became the first peer consultant teacher in the U-46 Peer Assistance and Review Program to support teachers who either were struggling or needed extra support. I began that program as the first consultant, and my research interests pretty much shifted to teacher development, teacher burnout and teacher epistemology.
Why did you choose the NIU College of Education? NIU was the one school that had a part-time doctoral program, so I wouldn’t have to quit my job. Not many programs allow that.
What has surprised or impressed you the most? There were older doc students who could mentor me, and by the time I was finished with my coursework, I saw myself taking on that role. I also able to structure my program when I was taking classes so that I was able to explore my own interests.
How has your NIU College of Education experience been so far? It’s been great. I feel like the professors are extremely professional and knowledgeable. My internship went really well. I had opportunities to speak at conferences, do research that applied my own research interests and learned how to be an academic.
What are your career goals, and why? I’m going to continue to work as a classroom teacher, but I did start a leadership consulting company after I finished my master’s in organizational leadership. During the summer, I fly to different places in the country to support team development and conflict resolution. I also just recently created a framework called “Chaos to Community” that I’ve been using in the classroom and in my company.
What are you learning here that you know will help you to shape your career? The Ph.D. program has helped me to be able to identify a problem – to really frame it – and then to do the research to support, “Is it really a problem or not?” and to find ways to implement interventions to solve the problem. The way I approach my work now is that I’m a little more sound in determining whether it’s a horse or a zebra. I’ve heard that terminology before. Is it really something to be concerned about, or is it something I can have an impact or influence on?
Why would you recommend the NIU College of Education? From a grad student perspective, I think that the assignments, and the relationships that you build with professors and other students all help you to grow as an individual. And, when I compare my doctoral studies to my master’s degree program, which was structured to the point where I felt like I was just racing to get a credential, this has been really focused on learning.
What advice do you have for future students? If I were to do it all over again, I would link up with a couple of professors and students to sit down and pick their brains about how they navigated their coursework, and I probably would be a little more planned out in what I really wanted to accomplish at the end. It really comes down to finding some strong mentors, taking risks and not being afraid to fail. I would also advise incoming students to learn how to deconstruct a journal article in order to expedite the reading process.
What else do you do for fun/hobbies in your spare time? Playing chess and spending time with my wife and son. I also used to coach basketball.
Fun fact: I was the keynote speaker for the Elgin Youth Leadership Academy’s 2019 Martin Luther King Conference.
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