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Walden Magazine // Jul 01, 2010

How I Did It

Alissa RussellALISSA RUSSELL ’09

DEGREE EARNED: MS in Education

WHAT I STUDIED: Mathematics (Grades 6–8)

HOW I PAID FOR IT: Student loans

HOW LONG IT TOOK: 18 months

WHAT ELSE I WAS DOING AT THE SAME TIME: I was teaching mathematics at the Life School in Dallas, Texas, and raising seven children ages three years to 18. I was also pregnant with our eighth child while I got the degree.

WHEN I STUDIED: When my kids were asleep—either late at night or early in the morning. If my teaching work was caught up, I’d work on research during my planning period. And on Saturdays my husband would take the little ones with him so I’d have two or three uninterrupted hours.

WHERE I STUDIED: In the bedroom. I have a desk with a computer there. I also locked myself in the bathroom to read.

MOST CHALLENGING PART: Researching was hard, but time was the biggest challenge—finding the time to study amongst all my cooking and other household duties and lesson plans and grading papers and spending time with my husband and church activities. When I completed my last assignment, a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. I finally knew I had what it takes to earn a master’s degree.

BEST THING MY FAMILY DID TO HELP ME: My husband created what he called a “Walden schedule.” It organized my time so I could go to work, come home, have some me time, cooking time, cleaning time, family time, study time, look at the news, and still get to bed at a reasonable hour. He helped me get organized so I wasn’t just studying whenever I could fit it in.

WHAT KEPT ME MOTIVATED: I’ve never liked the thought of not finishing something. So when the low times would come, I’d just push through, because I needed to finish. Once, my Internet went down with exactly one hour left to post my assignment. At that point, I thought about giving up, but my husband encouraged me to continue.

HIGHEST POINT: Handing in my last paper and seeing the end!

BIGGEST CHANGE IN MY LIFE SINCE GETTING A DEGREE: I am now the head of the math department—that was directly a result of my degree. And I get more respect from the administration. Many of them seek my opinion now.

MY NEXT BIG CHALLENGE: I’m a student in the EdD program—it’s actually the reason I went back to school in the first place. With my Ed.D, I plan on being able to reach a lot more students by impacting their teachers. I want to help implement educational policies that are positive for all involved parties. —D.S.

Tell us how you did it.