The light bulb moment in Sarah Critton's career as an educator arrived once she became a gifted and talented education specialist in August 2011.
"I got a lot of exposure with training teachers and working with them outside of the classroom," she said. "That's when I realized I could do so much more and reach so many more kids by working with the adults, as well."
Three years later, Critton graduated with a Master of Education in Educational Leadership & Policy Studies degree that she earned online from UTA. Her hard work paid off in the form of an assistant principal position at EP Rayzor Elementary School in Denton, Texas, just two years after she completed her degree.
"I had to have my master's degree," Critton said. "I didn't want the position to come open and I couldn't get it because of my degree. I have always loved kids. I think it's really fun to be around kids. I've worked in offices -- it's not fun for me."
Critton grew up in Lewisville, Texas, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of North Texas in 2008. She was the first person in her immediate family to earn a college degree. Critton has worked in Denton Independent School District her entire career, which has included teaching second and fourth grade.
Although she was in a different role while enrolled in the UTA online program, the M.Ed. in Educational Leadership & Policy Studies helped lay the foundation for Critton to excel in administration.
"A lot of the leadership and building relationships with people was very helpful," she said. "I went on from my job in gifted and talented position to be a math specialist, where I had a lot more leadership opportunities."
Striking a Balance
Critton chose UTA specifically because of the quality of its College of Education. Online education was a must for Critton because of all that was going on in her busy life. She took a few online courses in her undergraduate degree program, which helped acclimate her to a fully online format.
"It was great," she said. "I had a three-year-old, I was pregnant and I was working full-time. Everything was due on Sundays, so I was able to spread it out to the days that worked best for me, which I liked. I mostly did my schoolwork on the weekends. There would have been no way I could have done it if I had to drive somewhere for class."
EDAD 5381: Political and Legal Aspects of Education was Critton's favorite course in the online M.Ed. in Educational Leadership & Policy Studies curriculum.
"I felt like I learned a lot of information about the legal aspects of being an administrator that I didn't already know," she said. "I really enjoyed all of the courses, though."
In addition to the curriculum, Critton benefited greatly from the knowledge and experience of her fellow online students.
"I definitely think the degree helped prepare me to become an assistant principal," she said. "There's nothing like actually doing it, but the internship, which I was able to do at the school where I worked, helped a lot. With the online program, you are with the other people in your group. Getting to hear their experiences and having people in the same stage as you was also very helpful."
Now in her second school year as an assistant principal at EP Rayzor Elementary School, Critton has an eye on her bright future and continuing to her career advancement.
"My goal one day is to be a superintendent, I am in no rush though. I have a lot to learn even as an assistant principal," she said. "I got a lot of value out of the M.Ed. program. I recommend it any time somebody is looking for a program, I tell them that UTA was great."
Critton, who enjoys running in her free time and has completed several half-marathons, is proof positive that an online master's degree is attainable for anybody with almost any schedule.
"It's doable," she said. "I think people get overwhelmed thinking, 'Oh, I'm not going to be able to manage that.' You can manage anything you want to do. I thought it was very flexible."
Support was also important to Critton's success in the program. She received plenty of that from her husband and the rest of her friends and family. Critton hopes her daughters will follow her lead into higher education someday.
"Absolutely," she said. "We even already say it. We tell them all of the time, 'Go back and get your master's degree, and you can come back and boss me around.'"
Learn more about the UTA online M.Ed. in Educational Leadership & Policy Studies program.
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