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Archive for March, 2010

I initially began my doctoral journey solely for intrinsic reasons.  As a person who simply enjoys the process of learning, pursuing an advanced degree was a natural step in my life journey.  Well, that, and I also made a promise to my grandmother that no matter what it took, I would obtain my doctorate sometime during my adult life.  My doctoral journey was something that I was doing just for myself, just because I wanted to experience that particular level of challenge and engagement. 

I knew that I’d learn a lot during the course of my studies at SPU, and I knew that my studies would also further my understanding of theory and knowledge as it applies to education in general.  What I never really anticipated, however, was how useful and applicable my learning in doctoral program would be to my career.  I’m happy to report that I have been pleasantly surprised at how much I have put my learning to work in my day-to-day work life.  My doctorate has benefitted me in ways big and small in my professional pursuits, and for that I am doubly grateful that I persevered and completed the doctoral program at SPU.

Yes, it is true that having the letters “Ed.D.” after one’s name is a nice plus when you are a brand new building principal.  Staff, colleagues, parents, and even kids seem to hold a hefty respect for that level of educational pursuit.  That fact, in and of itself, has been a nice side benefit of my decision to complete the program.  There just seems to be an inherent respect for a person who undertakes and completes a rigorous course of study from a well-respected program such as the one offered by SPU’s School of Education.  However, the true professional benefit of having my doctorate runs deeper than just providing others with a positive perception of my ability. 

Prior to undertaking my doctorate, I had a basic knowledge of theory and relevant literature for the field of education, but now, I truly own the knowledge.  In talking with staff, parents, or colleagues, I have an extensive learned knowledge base that I can pull from at any time, because after the intensive degree of research offered by the program, I now just “know” the information.  Furthermore, I’m able to distill credible researchers and theorists from those who lack a basis for their conclusions.  Even more important, I am able to concisely and clearly articulate why one theorist has credence while another may not, and I can do so without jargon or confusion.  This has been enormously helpful as my building leadership team discusses pedagogical decisions for our team.  I also learned the art of staying current on research trends, which I know will pay enormous dividends as my career progresses. 

Another essential benefit to my work is the fact that the strong statistics emphasis provided in the SPU program has translated into my being able to guide my staff through assessment results in a way that I was not able to do previously.  In this era of growing accountability for student performance, understanding the way in which assessments are crafted and evaluated is of paramount importance.   Our discussions about state testing data and results were made more applicable and meaningful to our staff and students because I had the ability to clarify just what the results meant and how they translated into gains for student achievement.  I was also able to take complicated results and craft trend data that was eminently more useful in our building discussions.  Being able to handle staff questions about testing data, even highly detailed questions, felt very empowering to me and it clearly gave the staff confidence in my abilities as an instructional leader.    

I began my doctoral work with the goal of making myself a better person and offering myself the opportunity to engage in extended and meaningful discourse with like-minded students.  I concluded my doctoral work realizing thatthe experience transcended all of my expectations.  Yes, I became a better person, and yes, I ended the program with a wonderful cohort of intelligent and dedicated educators whom I now call my friends.  However, the journey transcended my expectations due to how it is benefitting not just me, but how it’s also benefitting my school community.  I am already witnessing the ripple effect of this on my staff and students.  It is my hope that I can continue to translate those small ripples into greater and greater effects on the achievement of my students.

Laurynn Evans, Ed.D.

Principal

Rose Hill Junior High School

Stella Schola Middle School

levans@lwsd.org / 425.881.2079

photo credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/catspyjamasnz/

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I began my doctoral work at Seattle Pacific University in 2006. The journey has been long but extremely rewarding. Upon further reflection, I have really enjoyed my time at SPU from start to finish. I have no regrets. I would encourage anyone who is thinking about starting doctoral work to take a serious look at what the School of Education at SPU has to offer. I remember feeling hesitant and a bit fearful about starting my doctoral work, but once that class began all the way back in 2006, I knew that SPU was the right place for me. Those feelings of fear and hesitation quickly dissipated once I began my first class. The key was taking that first step.

Perhaps you are like me. You have a family to look after and you are unsure about completing a doctorate. When I began at SPU, my oldest child was two. Over the next four years two more kids followed. Two of my three children were born while I was a doctoral student. Moreover, I live in Kitsap County, and it takes over an hour to get to SPU. I often took the bus and occasionally rode my bike. (Once I even rode my bike in the snow, but not on purpose.) Maybe you have a good teaching job, like I do, but now you are looking for that next challenge.

I have taught public school for eight years and in this time I have worked with 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th grade students. I earned National Board certification in 2005, coached 11 seasons of junior high sports, taught physical education, language arts, horticulture, math, social studies, and even summer school. Perhaps you have taught for many years, or just a few. However, if you are reading this, you are probably feeling like I was a few year ago. You are looking for that next challenge or that next step in your educational career.

Being a doctoral student has been the most meaningful professional growth experience I have had as an educator. The reason for this is that I have become familiar with important educational theories, developed a set of research skills, and formed relationships with professors and fellow doctoral students at SPU. These have all served me very well since I began at SPU in 2006. For instance, I have written one article (Denton_2009) for an educational journal[i] and have worked with a professor at SPU on other writing projects. Likewise, I have co-taught a class with a fellow doctoral student and, as part of a class titled Topics and Issues in Global Education, I traveled to Russia and participated in a conference at the Black Sea Academy.

When I began the program at SPU I promised myself that I would make the most of each class, learn as much as I could from each professor, and immerse myself in each experience to maximize my learning. I believe that I have done all of these things. Although I have a family and teach fulltime, I have made the most of my doctoral work.

You may have seen one of SPU’s motivational phrases around campus or on the University’s website; it reads “the place where world change begins.” One could dismiss this phrase as a bit idealistic, except I think that my doctoral work at SPU has prepared me to change my small corner of the world. With regard to my career, this means being an effective teacher and a resource for my school. However, I expect in the months ahead that opportunities will present themselves for which I can use the full range of what I have learned as a doctoral student at Seattle Pacific University.

David W. Denton

Doctoral Student, Seattle Pacific University

Public School Teacher


[i] Denton, D. (2009). Reflection and learning: Characteristics, obstacles, and implications. Educational Philosophy and Theory. Retrieved February 28, 2010, from http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/123215174/abstract 

Photo credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hawleyjr/, http://www.flickr.com/photos/alisa7248/

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