Like any intelligent husband, Lewis Hunt thought it would be a good idea to follow his wife’s lead.
Three years after Laura Hunt earned a Specialist in Education (Ed.S.) degree with a Superintendency Track online from Arkansas State University, Lewis followed suit with a Specialist in Education with a Principalship Track online. Both are educators in the Lake Hamilton School District in Pearcy, Arkansas.
“I was mainly motivated after watching my wife go through this process, and I saw the ease of being able to attend class and finish your assignments,” he said. “There was also monetary compensation from the school district where we work. Plus, it’s another step toward something that we both want to be. She’s already in administration and that’s something that I want to be in, eventually.”
After Laura earned a bachelor’s degree from Texas Christian University (1996) and a master’s degree from Arkansas Tech University (2005), she decided to go the online route because the couple had two young daughters, Avery (10) and Addison (9). Laura had some initial reservations but quickly realized she made the right decision.
“I was a little bit concerned about the time [commitment for the Ed.S. program] because our girls were younger,” Laura said. “Obviously, they need a lot of attention but we worked together. I stayed at school after work so I could study in my office, when it was quiet, and got some assignments done. Or, I would ask for the family to go on an outing so I could have the house to myself and I could get everything done. Working together, it is doable.”
First Things First
Laura, who is vice principal of Lake Hamilton Elementary School, said her other concern about the online program was the fact that — for the first time in her life — she was not at school on a brick-and-mortar campus.
“When I began the online classes, without seeing people, without seeing the instructors, I wasn’t really sure how that would go,” Laura said. “But everything was pretty self-explanatory. The assignments were laid out really well. Through Blackboard, we interacted with classmates. In many classes, we worked with our classmates to do projects together — we were required to work with them. We weren’t just alone.”
The flexibility was also every bit as beneficial as she imagined.
“I was about to go on vacation when I had to finish up a course and get some things uploaded,” she said. “I remember sitting in the airport and trying to get Wi-Fi so I could complete the assignments and see what was coming and take the test. It was so nice because I was on my way to a cruise. I got to do my class and finish it up, away from home, away from school, and enjoy my vacation.”
One tremendous benefit for Lewis as he entered the program was the ability to see the ins and outs of online education through Laura’s experience before he got started. He was also extremely familiar with Arkansas State University since he earned both a Bachelor of Science in Zoology (1993) and a Master of Science in Biology (1996) from the university.
“It was very interesting to me,” he said. “I would read the posts on our discussion boards, and there would be questions about how to do certain things or how to do certain assignments. For me, it was very self-explanatory. The studies, in the classes or by the graduate assistant, were already laid out for you. I thought it was very easy to follow the timelines and the instructions that were available on our assignments.”
Over and Out
The accelerated pace and the ability to finish the online degree programs quickly was another big selling point for the Hunts.
“It took 18 months to finish,” Laura said. “It went by really, really quickly — and then you’ve got your degree. You have to push and you have to do it. You take two classes a semester, but they’re not on top of each other. You can do anything for five or seven weeks. You are not going to class once a week for a whole semester, so that was a nice part of it.”
The flexible schedule was especially beneficial for Lewis, who teaches AP Biology, greenhouse, horticulture, science and careers. He is also the high school tennis and junior high track and field coach of the Lake Hamilton Wolves. The track and field team has won 11 consecutive conference titles, by the way.
“I’ll ask my coaching friends or other colleagues a lot of the time, ‘What is your motivation? If you want to do this class or if it is just purely monetary, then you need to make time for it. If it is something that you have a passion about, don’t waste any time. It is easier than you think. Just jump in,’” he said. “Basically, if I was going to be in the conversation to become a leader within my school, the degree is something that I needed to have. It is just something that I knew I had to get done, so I went ahead and got it done.”
Laura was also highly motivated to finish from the outset.
“The hesitations were: ‘Am I going to get this done?’” she said. “You are signing on to a lot and it is a commitment. You’ve just got to do the work to get through the process. I was lucky to have help to be able to go forward with it. Sometimes, it was needing a push, like, ‘Okay, I can do this. Keep going, take more classes. You’ve got to get to the finish.’”
Laura was already in administration when she started the program, so the Ed.S. with a Superintendency Track coursework was immediately applicable.
“There were some projects that were for a class but actually helped out in my [former] school district,” she said. “The things I learned were pertinent, important and in the real world.”
Lewis said the knowledge he gained in the program gave him some new perspective.
“I have lots of other coaching friends who want to know, ‘Is it pertinent? Is it something that I am going to use?’” he said. “I say, ‘Yes. It is, absolutely.’ I have a little bit more respect for our building leaders and some of the things that they have to deal with.
“It is a real-world education with real-world scenarios that you are going to use or may not ever use, but at least you’ve been exposed to it. You can rely on your experience, or at least the classes as far as having that knowledge base.”
Leaders of the Pack
Laura and Lewis are now set to continue as educational leaders for the remainder of their careers as their daughters grow up.
“I think what motivated me was just district-level licensure,” Laura said. “I would rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.”
Lewis taught and was in administration at the collegiate level for 13 years before he decided to make the switch to high school and junior high school, which also gave him an advantage in the program.
“I knew that I had some administrative experience on the college level, and I knew I could make an impact on the secondary level at some point,” he said. “I didn’t have any education background. I knew I needed to go back and take some of those courses to be qualified for those positions. Eventually, I want to get into leadership, principalship or some other kind of leadership role here on the secondary level.”
The Hunts also plan to enjoy life along the way. They have two dogs, a Shih Tzu (Bailey) and a Golden Retriever (Lightning). Laura likes to read, take the girls to their all-star cheerleading activities and, of course, take cruises. Lewis likes to garden, hunt, fish, run and golf. The couple live on 32.5 acres of land.
Wherever Lewis and Laura end up in their careers, they are now both proud A-State alumni. And Lewis is certainly glad Laura urged him to take the plunge back into higher education.
“If she could make time and get through all of the different hurdles and hoops that you had to jump through, I knew I could do it,” he said. “Everyone is busy. It is deciding, ‘Okay, I am going to decide to do it now. If I don’t start in January, it will be in the fall. Pull the trigger and get it done.’ She held my feet to the fire. It was pain-free, and I’m glad I finished.”
Added Laura: “It took a lot of nudging, but he finally realized that I was really smart in telling him he needs to get the Ed.S.”
Learn more about the A-State online Ed.S. programs.