Working as a teacher or administrator in a school setting can be very demanding.
However, it’s important to find ways you can grow in your profession and role. Learning new knowledge and skills can be invigorating. One of the best ways to improve your performance and be able to give even more to your students is by investing time in a graduate degree in an education related field.
We reached out to Dr. Michael Dunlap, dean of Silver Lake College’s School of Education, to get the full story on pursuing an advanced degree in education.
Q. Would you mind telling us a little bit about SLC’s advanced education programs?
A. Silver Lake College offers a number of exciting programs for educators wanting to take their game to another level. Master’s degrees are offered in Teacher Leadership and Administration with opportunities to complete coursework leading to licensure as a principal, director of instruction, pupil services director or reading specialist.
Q. What types of professionals should consider getting a master’s in Teacher Leadership or Administrator Leadership?
A. The most important quality we look for in a professional is a strong drive to learn and grow and make a difference in the lives of school-aged students. The program can be transformative for those who are committed.
In addition to the commitment, entrance to all graduate programs requires an undergraduate degree and prior teaching experience. Licensure-only programs require a completed master’s degree.
Q. What kinds of skills will students of these leadership-focused master’s degrees in education gain?
A. The Teacher Leadership and Administrator Leadership programs place a strong emphasis on servant leadership and best practices in curriculum, instruction and assessment. Building a positive culture, decision-making, problem-solving and change also are stressed. The goal is for participants to become change agents in their districts and schools in order to forward student learning. Students also pursue specific learning relating to the degree or licensure program they are pursuing in the areas of curriculum, pupil services, reading, etc.
Q. What makes Silver Lake College’s education programs different from other education programs?
A. Our program is delivered via a learning communities/cohort approach with emphasis on real-world application, reflection, empowerment and change. While theory is important, application is always the goal. We believe knowledge is of no use unless it is put into practice. Developing the capacity to engage thoughtfully in authentic problem-solving is a part of every class meeting. Students learn as much from each other as they do from their facilitators.
Q. How does someone know if they are “ready” (or a good candidate) to take one of SLC’s education leadership programs?
A. The best candidates for this program are those who have a thirst for learning and come asking questions. They want to improve their own practice, as well as take on a greater leadership role in their workplace. They are passionate about teaching children and are driven to make a difference in their students' lives and in their schools.
Q. What should I expect if I pursue an advanced program at Silver Lake College in terms of work/life/school balance?
A. The Graduate Education Program is designed with the busy professional in mind. Classes are scheduled during the summer and on weekends during the school year.
Students should expect to be challenged and engaged. And, they will be busy with readings and application. However, because much of the coursework is authentic and embedded in their regular practices, they should find that the workload is doable. Every day on the job provides an opportunity to try out the ideas they are learning, to reflect, and to grow.
Q. Can you give me a brief rundown on the Administrator Leadership program and the Teacher Leadership program offered at Silver Lake College?
A. Our programs in teacher and administrator leadership are organized around courses which address teaching and Administrator standards, and licensing standards in the State of Wisconsin. A total of 33 credits are required to receive a master’s degree in Teacher Leadership and 32 credits are required for a master’s degree in Administrator Leadership. Participants have the option of adding specialty licenses (e.g. reading licensure; director of pupil services licensure) by completing additional coursework and assignments.
The master’s degree in Administrator Leadership includes coursework related to leadership, decision-making, facilities, finance, school and community relations, curriculum and instruction, human resources and research. Classes in Teacher Leadership include leadership, research, curriculum and instruction, bringing about change and meeting special needs.
All Administrator programs include practicums that pair students with an experienced mentor in the field and feature coaching with a college supervisor.
Q. How does the education system in Wisconsin benefit from having its teachers and education administrators go back to school to get advanced degrees?
A. The most exciting reason to complete graduate coursework is to make an even greater contribution in your school and in the lives of the students with whom you work by applying new-found skills and abilities gained through study. Improved student learning will be the focus of your work. Of course, in many school districts, teachers receive additional compensation for completion of a master’s degree and those moving into formal Administrator roles typically receive a salary bump as well.
Overwhelmed by the thought of financing your graduate education? Check out our detailed guide for more information about ways to pay for your education.