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By Robin Henrikson

The coursework at SPU for my doctoral program has been quite fulfilling. To be perfectly honest, I have learned more than I thought I would and have been challenged to grow in many ways, including improvement in my knowledge about my specialization, growth in my writing skills and in my ability to understand statistics. Perhaps most important has been growth in my self-confidence and in my ability to critically examine new research, initiatives and programs to help advise and support educators in making decisions about programs for their schools.

My area of specialization is in professional development and pre-service teacher preparation. I have been able to design a doctoral program that met my needs with a combination of coursework, independent study and hands-on experiences that will enable me to be prepared to work in a variety of positions within my area of expertise once I have completed the program. One of the main reasons I wanted to pursue my Ph.D was to help support leaders in the improvement of their schools and to support pre-service, novice and experienced teachers so they are competent and prepared to be effective teachers.

This program has been challenging and I have had to learn how to be disciplined. Balancing school, part-time work as a math and professional development specialist as well as a wife and mother of three young children is no simple task, not to mention the more than two hour commute one way just to take classes. However, throughout my time in this program so far, I have had support from different professors, each offering me a different way to grow through their unique teaching styles. I have also built great relationships amongst other doctoral students. The flexibility of taking night, weekend and online classes has allowed me to pursue my degree whereas I would not have been able to without that type of coursework design.

I am happy with my experiences at SPU and once I am finished with my program I will be a stronger person in many ways including academically, emotionally and professionally. I thank God for the support He has given me throughout the past two years.

When I am finished with this program my goals are to pursue a career working at a university where I can continue to support teachers, whether they are at the beginning of their career or a veteran. I feel confident that this program has prepared me to do that.

Robin Henrikson is a student in SPU’s Ph.D. in Education program. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Western Washington University and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Seattle Pacific University. She holds Washington state certification in Special Education K-12, General Education K-8, and Building Principal. Robin served as a middle school special education and mathematics classroom teacher before becoming a teacher leader. She currently works as a Professional Development Specialist for the Olympic Educational Service District 114 in Bremerton, WA. She is married and the mother of three children.

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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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