"I got so much hands-on administrative field experience during my internship. I co-created a preschool handbook, wrote grants, served on the Building Leadership Team and the School Improvement Team and planned assemblies and fundraisers. I gained such a strong understanding of the various aspects of school leadership."
"Get involved with as many leadership opportunities within your school as you can. Building experience while going through the program makes the coursework more meaningful and will help you develop into a successful leader."
With a BA in elementary education from Graceland College, a Master's in Education from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and nine years of teaching experience, Tracy is passionate about promoting student achievement. After serving on several leadership committees, he realized he could excel in an educational leadership position. He spent two years earning his MEA at St. Ambrose University while teaching second grade.
After earning his MEA, Tracy was promoted to principal of Columbus Elementary. "The MEA is a program where you're expected to provide input, which is great because you're part of the learning process. I couldn't have advanced without Ambrose."
I had a newborn baby, so travel was a factor. St. Ambrose University has an excellent reputation, has a very reasonable tuition and was willing to set up a cohort in Chariton-three hours away from the Davenport campus.
The online aspect of the program was invaluable, in terms of communication. And we got face-to-face interaction over the ICN network. We were also able to interact with the other cohorts in Des Moines and Dubuque during the same class period. It was interesting to discuss the views of teachers from so many backgrounds.
In addition to learning with the ICN network, professors traveled from the Quad Cities to teach at our site. This willingness showed they were invested in our success; we developed tight relationships despite the distance.
Everyone brought their personal experiences to class. They're all great resources, because they've dealt with these situations before. Bill Thiessen did an excellent job of posing questions to get you to think. This program requires a lot of problem solving and reflecting on ways to handle situations. He also reviewed my resume, talked me through interview questions and wrote recommendation letters. I still keep in contact with him and ask for advice.
The most useful tool I learned is IRLF-investigate, reflect, leverage, frame. I reference that whenever I have to think through a problem. It's helped me to be more analytical; I frame the problem in a direction to be solved. When it comes to things like budget cuts, staff reductions and issues with parents, you can't rush into decisions. You have to be pragmatic. I learned to ask questions, take others' ideas into consideration and execute smooth transitions.
My focus project was the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) project, which involves using funds from the state sales tax for the school district budget. I became actively involved in this project as a member of the Communities Allied for Relationships in Education (CARE). The CARE committee was formed in response to the defeat of the PPEL vote in September 2008. We organized to clear up the misconceptions about PPEL, explaining that it provides funding for new buses and repairs to the school buildings, and discussing the affect on district finances.
I created flyers, wrote an editorial and made myself available to the community to answer questions about the vote. In December the constituents of the district approved the use of PPEL and RPS funds. It was a major victory for the school district, and I developed a greater appreciation for the art of communication and the importance of public relations.