It’s a good thing Torrence Williams laid the groundwork for a career in leadership.
He has spent most of his time as an administrator since graduating from the online Master of Science in Education in Educational Leadership program at Arkansas State University in 2015.
“I found a passion for leading within the school,” he said. “I knew if I wanted to be an instructional coach or an assistant principal, I was going to have to have another degree.
“I decided I wanted to pursue my master’s degree so that I could ultimately get into a leadership role and be able to be a leader within my school system.”
Williams is in his second year as principal at Bains Lower Elementary School in St. Francisville, Louisiana. He has also served as an assistant principal and an instructional coach since graduating from A-State.
“I find myself going back to work that I’ve done or research that I’ve done when I was getting my master’s degree and utilizing those things on-site, in real life and in real time,” he said. “More than anything, the program prepared me. The program is built for someone to step out of the classroom and be effective in the practice of education.”
The online format’s flexibility helped Williams maintain his role in the classroom while he earned the degree.
“I never felt overtaxed with what I was doing,” he said. “Everything was still relevant. I could look at the videos, listen to what the professors had recorded and then do the work.
“I always took one class at a time. The reason I was able to manage it so well is because I wasn’t driving to a university and back. I had that time to spend doing grades or to plan and do my actual job.”
Williams graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and government with a geography minor from Nicholls State University in 2009. He began his teaching career in the West Feliciana Parish High School the following year.
“When I started college as an undergrad, I was a social studies education major,” he said. “Halfway through, I changed my major. Once I graduated, I decided I still wanted to be a teacher, and so I went into education.”
After two and a half years in the classroom, Williams researched the online program and enrolled at A-State in 2012.
“Arkansas State was by far the best program for me,” he said. “I love that it was cost-effective and that I could do it online. I loved the coursework and everything. The way it was set up was super organized, and I was able to go to school and work on my master’s degree and keep working.”
One year after graduating from A-State, Williams was named the 2017 Louisiana Teacher of the Year for the high school level.
“I’ve never felt ill-prepared for any of the administrative roles that I’ve been in,” he said. “I was prepared for everything that I’ve taken on so far — instructional coach, assistant principal, and now principal. The MSE in Educational Leadership is such a great program.”
ELCI 6523: Secondary School Curriculum was Williams’ favorite course in the master’s degree curriculum. He also enjoyed ELCI 6083: Supervision and Evaluation of Teaching.
“Curriculum and instruction are my passions, so the school curriculum course gave me a super opportunity to do the research and the work while going back to my classroom and implementing what I was learning in the program and sharing that with my colleagues,” he said.
“The evaluation course was interesting because part of the requirements is to observe other teachers. I learned a tremendous amount about instruction and practice from seeing other teachers. If I hadn’t done the program, I probably would not have been able to take as in-depth of a look at the practice.”
Head of the Class
Williams is the first person in his immediate family to earn any kind of college degree, so his current pursuit of a doctoral degree is making waves at home.
“I have a great support system,” he said. “My family and friends were so proud of me and what I was doing. No matter what I needed, they were there for me — even if I needed to talk through something.
“Everybody was amazing. I kept going because I knew that there were people who would support me through that venture. The level of support that I received from the professors and academic assistants was also amazing.”
Williams said he immediately benefited from the knowledge he gained at A-State — especially since he was still teaching at the time.
“Some of the professors came from principal backgrounds; some of them were teachers,” he said. “It makes a difference with someone who has done what they’re teaching you because so much of what they say to you is based on experience. It is totally appreciated and effective when you’re teaching.”
With a master’s degree from A-State and 10 years of experience, Williams is a seasoned administrator who never hesitates to recommend the online MSE in Educational Leadership program.
“At least six other people who are colleagues or friends are going through the graduate program at A-State,” he said. “I speak very highly of the program and tell everybody, ‘If you’re working and considering a master’s degree, then the place to go is Arkansas State.”
Learn more about A-State’s online MSE in Ed Leadership program.