What better way to start graduation day than with a job interview?
Jonathan Morris put his name in the hat for an administrative position hours before donning a cap and gown to celebrate earning a Master of Education in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the online program at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) in May 2019. He completed the program in just 15 months.
"It was a good interview," he said. "I have had several other interviews for similar positions. The master's degree has put me on the right track for where I want to be, in administration."
Morris, who was recently promoted to high school football and track coach at Harker Heights High School in Killeen, Texas, enrolled in the online M.Ed. program to pave the way for the next step in his career.
"I want to play a role in teaching teachers how to teach," he said. "I also want to have a different impact on the lives of students outside of the classroom, planning their careers and developing their four-year plans for when they get to high school."
After graduating with a bachelor's degree in social sciences with minors in history and education from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in 2015, Morris knew an online format was the only way he could earn a graduate degree. His full-time job keeps him on his toes, and on the home front, he and his wife, Tiphani, stay busy with their two daughters, Emilie (10) and Averee (3).
"I always got home late because I am a coach, so there were a lot of late-night hours," he said. "The online format allowed me to work around my own schedule, whether it was with work or my personal life. There was plenty of good information available when I researched UTA. It's a great program that's cost-effective and short. It helped me out very much."
Home Field Advantage
Morris grew up in Rogers, Texas, where he was a four-year varsity letterman in football and track. His passion for athletics led him to coaching and teaching.
After becoming a father at 19 years old, he worked during the day and attended classes on campus to earn a bachelor's degree. The opportunity to continue his education by earning a master's degree online was ideal.
"My wife is really excited," he said. "She already has her master's degree. She said, 'When are you going to get yours?' By the time I finished mine, she started her doctorate. She is a teacher, but she is going the administration route next year [2019-20] as a special education facilitator."
The online M.Ed. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies curriculum provided Morris with the foundation to transition into an administrative role also.
"I liked all of the courses in the program," he said. "I learned a lot from every single one of them. I couldn't put a finger on one course I liked more than the other. They were all great, well-structured and easy to navigate."
Although Morris was not an administrator while enrolled in the M.Ed. program, the information he learned was still applicable to his job.
"The program definitely made me a better teacher," he said. "For example, the legal course [EDAD 5381: Political and Legal Aspects of Education] made me think about certain scenarios, 'I didn't realize this has been to court before.' When you have similar situations come up, you rely on the knowledge you gained in the class to see how to take a different approach to it."
The experience from the EDAD 5399: Capstone Internship in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies course was also invaluable to Morris.
"You get a lot of hands-on experience and knowledge because you have 500 clocked hours of administrative practices and duties with the internship," he said. "You have hands-on experiences to enhance the learning you are doing."
Although graduation day turned out a little busier than expected, Morris is glad he made the trip up Interstate 35 to Arlington for commencement.
"It was a great experience, and I am glad I participated," he said. "I know some people who didn't attend. It's a great memory, and it allowed my kids to see what hard work does and how education can lead you to future success."
Morris has also become quite the advocate for the online M.Ed. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program.
"I have already told several veteran teachers I work with who are interested and questioned me about the program that they should go to UTA," he said. "I tell them that it's a good school and a good program.
"It's going to help my career advance basically almost right off the bat. It's convenient and inexpensive. There are great professors at UTA. It's a well-rounded program."
Regardless of whether Morris becomes an administrator in the near future, he has already reaped some of the benefits of earning a master's degree.
"The degree has made me a better teacher by giving me more strategies and best practices," he said. "Also, I learned how to plan effectively for lessons that helped in advancing my teaching career and my students' learning, as well. For sure, the program prepared me for administration."
Learn more about the UTA online M.Ed. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program.
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.