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by Amy Vaughn

As a math teacher in California, I was fortunate enough to be hired to teach at a Catholic high school that openly honored the values I felt called to demonstrate.  I immediately felt that I was a part of a unique community and wholly embraced the hallmarks of the school, particularly that of community service.  In the classroom, I felt that I had much more impact on my students’ emotional and spiritual growth because we could openly discuss our shared values.  But beyond this, I believe my students also participated in learning at much deeper levels because of our trust in each other and their willingness to take risks.             

During my time teaching in California, I felt called to continue my education to the doctoral level, and these same principles became part of the criteria in my search for a university.  I searched the nation for a school that I believed would best suit my needs as a student, a professional, and a Christian.  I wanted a school that was small enough to have a family feel, but large enough to have a powerful presence in the education community.  In fact, during my first visit to SPU, I could feel the same sense of community, rigor, and spiritual connectedness that I felt at the Catholic high school where I was teaching.  I genuinely feel fortunate to have found SPU as a fit for my educational, professional, and personal goals.

Now, as a professional pursuing a doctoral degree, I am committed to innovation and change in terms of teacher preparation and support, especially in light of the high attrition rate of new teachers.  This means raising the standards within the profession and teaching teachers as they should teach their own students.  I am committed to producing better teachers by maintaining my own research and modeling the latest instructional techniques. SPU has allowed me to pursue these goals.  Additionally, the faculty members at SPU have always treated me as a respected colleague and I greatly value their expertise.  SPU and the School of Education have far exceeded my expectations and I would recommend this institution to anyone seeking more than an academic degree. 

Amy is a student in the Ph.D. in Education program at SPU. She earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Atmospheric Science from the University of Louisiana at Monroe, post-baccalaureate teacher certification in mathematics at Texas Tech University, and a Master’s of Arts from Notre Dame de Namur University. She taught high school mathematics in Texas and California and currently serves as an Clinical Instructor of Teacher Education at SPU.

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A part of me has always known I would obtain a doctorate degree at some point. Had you asked me 20 years ago, I would have been definitive that I would pursue this education outside the state of Washington. However, when the time came to choose a program, I had two young children, aged 5 and 3 when I began, and I knew it was more important to stay close to home.

Several factors went into my choice of Seattle Pacific University. The first was somewhat simple: a friend of mine and I had decided to approach this adventure together, and she had a previous experience with SPU’s Educational Leadership program. I should say, she has a previous phenomenal experience. That, in and of itself, was enough to encourage me to apply. As I learned more about the program, several other advantages became clear. The option of some online courses appealed to me given I live on the west side of Puget Sound in Jefferson County. Further, the cohort design of the program encouraged a shared and collaborative learning experience. The emphasis on empirical research coupled with practical application was also a bonus. The fact that most courses were held on Saturdays fit well with my work and family schedule. And, perhaps the greatest benefit for me was the practical application of the knowledge and activities. I am confident that each course I completed improved my leadership skills, and that my experience in successfully completed my Ed.D. is a benefit to myself professionally, but more importantly, to the staff, students, and families I serve.

On a personal note, I gained life-long friendships with the peers in my cohort as well as deep professional relationships with the professors in the program. Having completed my degree in 2008, I have found numerous opportunities to reach out to those with whom I worked so closely while in this program. I am sincerely grateful that I was invited to join the SPU community as an adjunct professor. This opportunity continues to enhance my leadership and research skills.

This was undoubtedly the most rigorous educational experience I have ever had. With an undergraduate degree in English with a math minor, I thrive on both literature and numbers. I can honestly say I never worked harder on something than this program, but one of the reasons that the hard work was, in a sense, easy was that it was both intellectually stimulating and professionally relevant. Further, when things got hard, intellectually or emotionally, there were many, many supportive people there to lend a hand.

I cannot say enough about the wonderful experience I had. I recommend SPU to all those looking to enter education as well as those already in the field looking to “walk the talk”, so to speak, and further their own learning, skills, and knowledge.

Whitney E. Meissner, Ed.D.

Principal, Chimacum Middle & High School

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/willhale/3640684126/sizes/s/,


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