Recent CMU master’s degree graduate shares her virtual learning experience

| Author: Jason Fielder

From 2017 through 2020, Courtney MacDonald attended CMU classes online while teaching at Cedar Springs Middle School, earning a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership with an emphasis on rural districts. Below, Mrs. MacDonald shares her thoughts on her time at CMU. 

How would you assess the overall experience at CMU? 

The experience was wonderful. The educational leadership program fit within my busy schedule with young kids and a full-time teaching job! I took classes in the evening, worked on my graduate school assignment on the weekends/school breaks, and completed my internship right where I was teaching with my principal at the time. The virtual classes were meaningful, and my professors connected with us on a personal level. My peers and I did group work, break-out room discussions, group presentations, and shared experiences with each other. It was easy to be fully present during class because the content and people were so relatable to my career. I was able to implement what I was learning as I went, I immersed myself in educational journals and research, applying what I could in my own classroom and building. 

How did your degree from CMU help get you to where you are today in your role as assistant principal?

The educational leadership program prepares students to be leaders and lifelong learners. The program strengthened my teaching skills and relationships with colleagues. As I worked through my courses, I began taking on smaller leadership roles in my district -- Student Leadership Council Advisor, Building Management Team member, Middle School PLC Leader for science, summer school programming, and school events (curriculum nights, open house, etc.). I found mentors in my graduate professors and within the school district because of my motivation to grow and apply knowledge from my classes. I am so fortunate to work in the Cedar Springs school district with so many people whose leadership values align with my own whom I continually learn from. 

What was the best aspect(s) of getting your degree from CMU?

The opportunity to complete my internship in the building I was teaching in. As I was learning and progressing in my classes, I was applying my new knowledge and skills in the workplace. I valued this experience because of the connections I built with leaders in my own organization, and the requirements of my master's program allowed me to organically practice and role-play the job of an educational leader. Not only did this grow my confidence, but it signified to me that being a principal/assistant principal was a great career fit. How often do you get to practice a job before doing it?

What stood out the most about the Educational Leadership program at CMU?

The incorporation of equity, diversity, and inclusion, within educational leadership. In a rural setting, limited cultural awareness and the demographic makeup of a community can equate to a need for leadership to ensure all students feel a sense of belonging. 

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