As December arrives quickly, Wesleyan students find themselves stressing over their final exams and report cards. A familiar feeling that returns every year. However, Wesleyan students are not the only ones stressing out over papers and finals. Many Wesleyan teachers have gone back to school themselves, taking classes at night in pursuit of advanced degrees. These classes are with other teachers who are pursuing the same type of advanced degrees. In fact, one group of Wesleyan teachers have decided to go through this process together.
Wesleyan teachers Brian Krehmeyer, Mitchell Mayfield, Leah Baughn, Jamie Hemken, Alex Bufton and Kali Sessions are taking night school classes together at Wesleyan pursing a masters degree. They typically meet every Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The program that these teachers are involved in is based out of Gordon College, which is a Christian college in Wenham, MA. Krehmeyer said that they discovered this program because a man named Doctor
David Tilly pitched it to him and a few other Wesleyan teachers. Krehmeyer also added that Gordon typically does a lot of recruiting in the southeast because it consists of more Christian schools. This course is taken by headmasters and principals all over the U.S and is commonly referred to as [headmaster bootcamp.] Although Gordon is in Boston, teachers can work in groups called Cohorts, which are groups of students who take classes online. The classes are taught using an app called “Zoom” which is a multi-person video chat program. The course consists of a variety of different readings, discussions and research, papers on education and leadership and at the end of the two years a capstone paper. The six teachers taking this course together said that doing this program as a group of colleagues has made the experience more enjoyable and less lonely than online courses tend to feel. Krehmeyer said “I have enjoyed the topics, I have enjoyed the discussion, but have not enjoyed writing the papers.” Something that appears to be universal among students, regardless which level of school they are in.
These six teachers are not the only Wesleyan faculty currently working on achieving a higher degree. Lower School Principal Jason Erb is currently working on his doctorate in Educational Leadership. Erb already earned his master’s in 1994 in teaching and has a long history of educational experience, including receiving a National Board Certification in 2002 (a national certification that recognizes accomplished teachers around the U.S.). Erb has been taking classes every other week at the University of Georgia Gwinnett Campus from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., although Erb said he does have weekends where “I come up when no one is here and sit in the office for 10 hours straight.” At UGA Gwinnett he works with a group of 12 other administrators from a variety of other schools in the Atlanta area. Erb’s workload is similar to the workload required for a master’s degrees. However, in addition to the readings and research that the master’s require, Erb also must complete a dissertation study. Erb is working on an Action Research dissertation which is where the researcher researches their own organization, in Erb’s case this is Wesleyan. Erb has been working since August with six other team members from the school and has been studying the development of teacher leadership. Erb has currently written about 125 pages of his dissertation and said there is still a good amount left. Once Erb finishes the dissertation he will finally be able to graduate and receive his degree this May. Erb also hopes that after completing his degree he can teach at a collegiate level, which is one of the many qualifications that comes with a doctorate.
Both Krehmeyer and Erb gave the same advice to other Wesleyan faculty considering furthering their education. They both said that this is a tremendous commitment and one must really evaluate where they are in life and whether they will be able to make the sacrifices necessary. Krehmeyer also said “If you’re going to pursue an advanced degree, it should be a priority and a passion, you shouldn’t be lukewarm about it.” Teachers from both groups recommended that if someone is interested in pursuing their master’s degree, that it is better to pursue it right out of college when there is enough time. Krehmeyer had tried twice to get his master’s degree before but both times had to halt his studies because the timing simply was not right. Now he is relieved and excited that he has found a good time to pursue this degree and a great group of colleagues.
Why is it important for teachers to gain higher level education? Krehmeyer said “Having an advanced degree is an advancement in school leadership. It provides new perspectives and great opportunities to evaluate the way that I do things at Wesleyan.” Additionally, Krehmeyer added that he felt the experience as whole benefited him as a person. Sessions said, “We have been studying in depth what it means to be a leader at a Christian institution with the end goal of serving Wesleyan to the best of our ability.” Which is something that is fundamental for growth at a school like Wesleyan. Erb said it has been a wonderful experience that has allowed him to “expand my knowledge and expertise.” Both degrees are different in many ways, but it is certainly safe to say they both require lots of hard work, effort and sacrifice. Teachers that want to continue their education for the benefit of not just themselves, but the community are something that is fundamental in today’s educational environment.