Leadership · Curriculum · Lifelong Learning

On May 4, 2012, I rode with my girlfriend and her parents to Greenville, North Carolina, to watch her graduation. She was in our district‘s first Masters in School Administration (MSA) cohort to graduate from East Carolina University (ECU). 

It was such a special night for my soon-to-be-wife and her family. Her Grandma visited all the way from Iowa just to be there for Leann. I remember stopping at McDonald’s drive-thru on the way there. I remember the anticipation and excitement escalating as we slowly approached our destination. Finally, we arrived!

It was a hot one, for sure. I don’t remember air conditioning being a thing. Nevertheless, the ceremony was memorable. I took about 200 pictures on my digital camera.

Blogger’s Note: A digital camera was a separate device that took high-quality pictures and stored them on a memory card that could later be transferred to other devices for digital purposes, like editing, sharing, and printing. End Blogger’s Note.

Throughout the night, Leann was smiling and beaming inside-and-out, so much that I remember thinking that she was glowing. The culmination of her journey was worth celebrating, and I know it had meant a lot to her that we were there to celebrate her special moments with her. 

That’s what really mattered.

Throughout her MSA studies, I watched Leann work hard, balance all the things in life and career, and all while putting up with me, too. Once again, I was amazed at her productivity, stability, and flexibility. 

On May 8, 2020, I graduated from the same program. I’m extremely grateful to have earned my MSA through ECU. Although a much different time in much different circumstances, some similarities remain.

Here are a few of my observations, memories, and reflections:

Compared to many friends and colleagues, I earned my first masters degree later in my career. As an educator approaching two decades in the profession, I believe my learning experience was different now than if I had earned my masters right out of (undergrad) college. It’s kind of like reading the same book at different times in your life. It takes on different meanings at different times, and for different reasons, yet valuable nonetheless. As a veteran educator, I could immediately compare, contrast, and apply what I was learning to many experiences I had already lived out over the years. More importantly, I was able to clearly see how much I really didn’t know–which was a lot–and what I still had yet to learn. 

In addition to my career, I also had a lot of things going on in my personal life. Therefore, I was especially grateful that I was able to continue all other parts of my life while earning my graduate degree. As a husband, a parent of a two-year-old, a full-time teacher, a full-time After School Director, and as one who passionately pursues additional professional opportunities, the flexibility that ECU was offering through this cohort model was exactly what I needed. 

Like many experiences throughout my life and career, what I loved most about my MSA journey was the people. Degrees earned completely online have their value. Yet, I especially valued our hybrid model in which our cohort met face-to-face for class every other Monday for about four hours, with several more opportunities to connect, interact, and learn online. 

Because of our learning that we experienced face-to-face, together, I’ll forever connect meaning, context, and faces to our co-constructed memories. I’ll remember our discussions, circles, and presentations. I’ll remember our stories, projects, and role-plays. I’ll remember our connections, shares, and reflections. I’ll remember our smiles, laughs, and cries. I’ll definitely remember lessons learned throughout my internship

And I’ll never forget how my MSA journey ended… in the beginning of a global pandemic. And how we came together to make the best of it, no matter what.  

Maybe making the best of our pandemic life experiences is less about pomp and circumstance and more about how we co-create pomp in circumstance, together. 

I don’t remember a lot from my kindergarten, middle school, high school, and (undergrad) college commencement ceremonies, graduations, and celebrations. But I will never forget the socially-distant, graduation moment that our cohort created for ourselves, together. 

I think the reason that people of all ages are proud to earn any degree is not just because the recognition at the end might feel good, although it does, but also because it’s the culmination of another meaningful leg in their journey, an experience wrought with hard work, personal investment, and collective sacrifice.

It’s another new starting line.

That’s worth celebrating.

Anytime. Anywhere.

Now, about a doctoral degree…


Leann’s Graduation: May 4, 2012

Kyle’s Graduation Moment: May 9, 2020

May 8, 2020: It’s #ECUMSA (virtual) graduation day! Our two-year-old eats breakfast on my lap while my wife fixes my attire. Earning a masters degree was a family choice, investment, and sacrifice. I’m forever grateful to my family for their collaboration, love, and support.

My #ECUMSA journey on Twitter.

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