Abbie Haley is a go-getter.
After wrapping up her Master of Science in Education (MSE) in Educational Leadership degree online from Arkansas State University in August 2019, Haley turned right around and began working on her Ed.S. in Educational Leadership, Superintendency.
“I also see myself as a leader,” she said. “I don’t think that I will be a classroom teacher the rest of my life. I see myself taking job opportunities along the way, whether it be in curriculum or in administration, or some other leadership role.”
Haley taught for two years at West Memphis School District’s Bragg Elementary before moving back home for a job teaching first grade at Jonesboro School District’s International Studies Magnet School. She’s now in her fourth year of teaching.
The move back home made A-State a clear choice for Haley.
“Arkansas State has always been my home,” she said. “I grew up supporting A-State and going to basketball games and football games. I graduated from Arkansas State with my undergraduate degree, and I really liked what the university had to offer. The faculty members and the community as a whole support individual learning. They’re there to help you.”
As an undergrad, Haley went to school on campus, but going to her alma mater online was the best choice for her as her career began to take shape.
“I’m a classroom teacher, so my hours would not work with going to class,” she said. “With my schedule, I wouldn’t have been able to get my master’s any other way.”
Haley did find, however, that living near campus made it easy to meet her professors face to face if she wanted to see them in their offices.
“The professors were very easy to contact,” she said. “I met with them in-person whenever I had some things I needed addressed. I would call and make an appointment. But for the most part, everything I did was through email and the online system.”
One of the many benefits of earning a degree online is being able to take classes at your own pace. Haley found this an easy way to balance work, school and life.
“There were some terms when I would take two classes and there were some terms when I would just take one,” she said. “Some of the classes were a little bit more time-consuming than others at home because I was doing more research and some were more time-consuming because I was working in the field.”
Achieving that balance can be daunting, but Haley never found the demands to be too hard to handle.
“My weekly workload was very manageable with assigned readings or videos,” she said. “I don’t think I ever felt like it was too much. It seemed like the right amount.”
Because her work and her coursework went so well together, Haley found she could manage her time more easily.
“The way that the courses are laid out, you have the opportunity to work ahead and become more prepared for the field activities,” she explained. “I was able to make the necessary plan to schedule any observations or interviews during my school day.”
Another benefit of going to school online is being able to see everything laid out from the start of the session. Planning ahead helped Haley have a better idea of what she needed to do to manage her life.
“Each week, I looked at my assignment and found that I needed to get in touch with these six people or find this data from my district,” she said. “Fortunately, I was able to receive that information ahead and schedule accordingly.”
Coming from a family of educators and administrators, Haley knew she would find her place as a leader in the field of education.
“I’ve always loved kids,” she said. “I’ve always loved working with others and I’ve always had an ability to lead groups, which as a teacher, is something that you do daily.”
Earning her master’s and moving on to the specialist program was essential for Haley in her quest to take on more leadership duties in her career.
“I think that each individual class provides you with background information and knowledge that I would have never had or known before,” she said. “I now have knowledge about how the budget works, how to select curriculum, how to select and evaluate programs and how to evaluate teachers and their efficiency. I don’t think that with just my undergraduate degree, I would have that background knowledge and that information.”
Haley is excited to see what the future brings in her education career.
“I think that as opportunity arises, I never want to be held back,” she said. “I don’t know if I want to be a principal and work with teachers. I don’t know if I want to be a vice principal, but I do know that I want to be able to take opportunities when they come my way. I don’t know what those opportunities might be, but I do see myself as a leader in some form or some fashion.”
With higher education comes greater responsibilities. Haley is already seeing the investment in her education pay off while she waits on the change in job titles down the road.
She said, “Even though I’m not yet in a position of authority, I’ve been given the advantage of being a teacher leader because of my advanced degree.”