By Dawn Reiss
DEGREE EARNED: M.S. in Education (M.S.Ed.) with a specialization in Integrating Technology in the Classroom (Grades K–12)
HOW I PAID FOR IT: Student loans, grants, a full-time job teaching at Middle Creek Middle School in Kent, Wash., and decorating cakes for extra money
HOW LONG IT TOOK: Three years. I transferred after one semester at a local college and then changed my specialization at Walden, which required additional courses.
WHAT ELSE I WAS DOING AT THE SAME TIME: As a widow, single parent of a teenager, and Army veteran, life keeps me busy. As a middle school science teacher, my other 150 “children” add to my schedule, too. Family always comes first, so I also help my parents, who have disabilities.
WHEN I STUDIED: Whenever and wherever I could. From early morning hours while my son attended ROTC classes to late-night sessions once he had gone to bed. Thanks to Walden’s MobileLearnSM, I was able to take my reading with me on my Nook and iPhone. Never being without a journal article or assignment outline helped me use downtime to my best advantage.
LOWEST POINT: I’ve survived a career change and cancer, but when my husband, Tim, committed suicide, a lot of people thought I’d imploded. Honestly, some days I didn’t know how I’d get out of bed. But as a mother, I had to figure out how to live for my son. During my first year at Walden, I was run over by a snowboarder, leaving me broken and bruised. Typing with two casted arms was interesting, but the bed rest from the injured hip gave me time to study. I often tell my students, if I can survive everything I’ve been through and graduate, you can too.
HIGHEST POINT: Participating in graduation is a memory that will last a lifetime. Walden welcomed me as an alumna and truly made me feel celebrated.
BEST THING MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS DID TO HELP ME: They understood my schedule and I was welcome to participate when I could. My son was a great help and made dinners and lunches. He is also a killer cookie maker—my reward for getting work done. My partner and best friend, John, has also given me outstanding support and helped me stay focused.
WHAT KEPT ME MOTIVATED: Knowing that in order to build my dream school, an academy for foster girls who are not adopted by the age of 12, I needed my master’s and, now, my doctorate. It’s helped me push through the challenges, the exhaustion, and the low points.
BIGGEST CHANGE IN MY LIFE SINCE GETTING A DEGREE: I was selected to be the new technology academy teacher at my school—out of 45 candidates. The Kent Technology Academy is a small learning community within our school that focuses on using 21st-century technology on a daily basis. I have also used my technology and leadership skills to become a member of our district technology cadre and an adjunct professor at a local university.
MY NEXT BIG CHALLENGE: Completing my Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) with a specialization in Teacher Leadership at Walden. Once I have earned my Ed.D., I will pursue my dream of building Starlit Skies Academy.
Tell us how you did it at myWaldenImpact@waldenu.edu.