Like most kids, Kevin Hazelrigg viewed school as an obligation. That was until Mrs. Pierpont came along to teach him in fourth grade in Springfield, Missouri.
“She really opened my eyes,” he said. “I thought, ‘This is fun. This is the best class I’ve ever been in.’ My fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Morrow, was about the same. I think I realized at that point that with the right people who have the passion to teach, learning is so much fun. They made such a large impact on my life. I had that desire to do the same for others.”
Hazelrigg was inspired to follow in their footsteps to become a teacher. He earned his bachelor’s degree in elementary education and began his career as an educator. He left the profession for a while to work as a juvenile neglect and abuse officer before returning to the classroom in 2012. He now teaches fifth grade at Bolivar Intermediate School in Missouri and will graduate in August 2017 with a Master of Science in Education (MSE) in Educational Leadership that he is earning online from Arkansas State University.
Hazelrigg said, “My wife [Jamie] encouraged me to go back into education. She said, ‘If that’s what you love to do, go back and do what you love to do.’ So, I had her support and went back into education. Once I was there, I thought, ‘It’s been so long that I’ve been out of education, I just need to get back into learning myself.’ I do have aspirations of becoming an assistant principal or principal leading my own school. That’s why I decided to go back — to open more doors for myself.”
The people, from admissions to my academic advisors, professors and my student coordinator, have been amazing.”
Hazelrigg eventually chose Arkansas State over the local alternative, Southwest Baptist University.
“I started looking at the online program because I thought, ‘This will allow me to work on my time and not have to go sit in a classroom for three hours an evening or spend an entire Saturday in a classroom,'” he said. “Truly, I am technologically light years away from where I should be. I type with two fingers. I am just not a computer guru by any stretch of the imagination. My only fear was I know so little about getting in and out of programs and doing all of the things that need to be done, but I thought the convenience of it was superior to going to class.”
The faculty and staff at A-State helped him cast his fears aside almost immediately.
“The outstanding individuals who make Arkansas State a great institution amazed me,” Hazelrigg said. “Every question, concern and fear was answered by caring individuals who truly had my best interests in mind. The people, from admissions to my academic advisors, professors and my student coordinator, have been amazing. From the first day, almost two years ago, until now, they have been there every step of the way. The people have made this program amazing.”
Hazelrigg, 51, said the flexibility of the online format has helped make earning a master’s degree more manageable than he ever imagined.
“There has been great balance between work and school,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what time of the evening it is. I can get home, go outside and work in the yard or the garden, come in and do my school work. The flexibility is unbelievable.”
Hazelrigg said he has enjoyed all of the courses in the curriculum to this point.
“School Law [ELAD 6073] was fascinating,” he said. “I was sad when that course ended. I really was. I was in law enforcement, in court four days a week with kids in families with abuse situations. I like the court part of it. That was a great class. Theories of Instruction [ELCI 6533] was great. So was Philosophies of Education [ELFN 6763]. There hasn’t been a class yet where I haven’t had to think.”
Prepared to Lead
Hazelrigg said the coursework in the online MSE in Educational Leadership program has thoroughly prepared him to become an administrator — even way back when he first started the program and worked in Buffalo, Missouri.
“At Buffalo, the principal resigned and we hired a new principal,” he said. “They thought enough of me to let me sit in on the interview panel. After sitting through a few interviews and listening to the questions asked, I realized that I’ll be very prepared when my opportunity arises. The courses I have taken have given me the knowledge and confidence to excel when interviewing for administrative positions. I was able to answer all questions and elaborate on my responses. Arkansas State has prepared me for the rest of my career.”
Hazelrigg said he has thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of his time at A-State.
“Besides the people who make Arkansas State a wonderful experience, the school itself is extremely strong,” he said. “I now have the increased knowledge and skill set to successfully teach in the classroom and someday lead as an administrator.
“When comparing knowledge with others completing the same degree program in different locations, I am very well aware of the differences from university to university. A coworker in a similar leadership program at another school told me he was envious of what I was learning, and he was afraid he was not going to be prepared once his degree program concluded. Although I’m very humble, I do not have these fears. I will be successful due to the knowledge I have gained.”
I am an Arkansas State student. I take great pride in telling people where I am getting my degree. The classes have challenged me to question, think and solve problems. They have challenged me to be a better person.”
The Finish Line
Hazelrigg said he hopes to attend his graduation ceremony, especially so both of his parents, David and Rita, can see him walk across the stage and receive his degree.
“I’m still lucky enough to have them around,” he said. “I’m very fortunate. I would like to go for their sake.”
Even though he has yet to step foot on campus in Jonesboro, Hazelrigg feels a strong connection to Arkansas State University.
“I am invested,” Hazelrigg said. “I am an Arkansas State student. I take great pride in telling people where I am getting my degree. The classes have challenged me to question, think and solve problems. They have challenged me to be a better person.
“I now have the confidence to be a strong, ethical and positive leader. The university and the outstanding, caring people have made furthering my education a wonderful experience. I highly recommend Arkansas State University to any person who desires a great education.”
Perhaps someday he will inspire one of his students to become a teacher, too.
“Anybody even considering earning a degree should do it,” he said. “It has been so enlightening. If I never become an assistant principal or a principal, it was still worth it … I’ve become such a better teacher because of these courses I’ve taken.”
Learn more about the A-State MSE in Educational Leadership online program.