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Walden Magazine // Aug 01, 2013

Lifelong Learners: Three Degrees, One Destiny

Dr. Kimberly Handy ’12 explains why education is a lifelong journey—both in her classroom and as a student.

Dr. Kimberly Handy. Photo credit: Michael Dineen.

Dr. Kimberly Handy.
Photo credit:
Michael Dineen.

Walk into Dr. Kimberly Handy’s classroom and most days you’ll hear laughter. Animated conversation spills into the hallways after class. Her high school students are regularly excited by a language arts lesson that resonates with them. It might be a memoir-writing assignment or relate to her favorite book, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, a novel that helps readers realize their personal legend or destiny.

“Whenever I see students’ faces light up—that aha moment—I know why I’m a teacher,” says Handy, who’s taught in Alaska’s Anchorage School District since 2004. “I had an English teacher who made books come alive. He would ask us how we could apply their lessons in our daily lives. That’s the mantra I use in my teaching now.”

In her work as an educator, Handy has discovered her own personal legend. Aside from teaching, she’s a published author and co-host of a weekly online talk show, where she offers advice and support to graduate students. Handy also serves as a capstone evaluator for Western Governors University and mentors and coaches new teachers. Plus, she was chosen by the Alaska chapter of the National Education Association to participate in the national Minority Leadership Training in January 2013.

“I want to help the next generation of teachers,” says Handy. “I know what it’s like to be a teacher for the first time. New teachers may not have the support or professional development they need. My best advice is that teaching requires perseverance. Nothing gratifying comes easily; I want to help them get over the speed bumps and keep going.”

Early in her own career, Handy realized she needed more than a bachelor’s degree to be her best as a teacher. That and the positive experiences of her colleagues led her to Walden for an MS in Education in 2005. “My master’s taught me so much about assessment, how to look at data, and about how children learn. I’m more cognizant about students’ abilities and incorporating different learning styles now,” she says.

Seeking to make an even greater impact in the classroom and her community, Handy earned a Doctor of Education (EdD) in 2012. Though many people might stop there, Handy has returned for an Education Specialist (EdS) in Reading and Literacy Leadership, which she expects to complete in 2014.

“I want to be sure I have the skills to provide my students what they need to learn. I’ve seen what has happened nationally with the common core standards; there’s a lot more rigor now,” she says.

At the same time, she is reshaping her personal legend as an educator. Sparked by her doctoral research and work with graduate students, Handy now hopes to become a university professor.

“I like pushing myself to the limit. I can’t sit idle. I like the fact that I can set and meet goals and that I can be a role model for others,” she says. “I’m a lifelong learner. I want to make sure I have a continuous grasp of what’s happening in education.”

Tell us why you’ve returned to Walden for another degree at [email protected].