Marcia Correia felt it was time to take a step up.
Correia has been a science teacher for 17 years and coaches robotics for K-4th graders at Oakland Heights Elementary in Russellville, Arkansas.
“I knew that I wanted to do something in which I could have a little bit more of a lead role,” she said. “As a school teacher, to me the next step would be to become a principal. I felt like I had a lot to offer, but I wanted to understand more of the data process throughout the school districts and how to analyze our test scores. In the classroom, I don’t get to do that a lot.”
Correia began her journey upward by enrolling in the Master of Science in Education in Educational Leadership online at Arkansas State University.
“When you go through your bachelor’s program, you’re limited on the classes you get to take,” she said. “It’s more student-oriented. You don’t get a lot of leadership classes where you can learn to benefit teachers around you.”
A-State offered Correia the kinds of leadership classes she was looking for in a master’s program, and the convenience of earning a degree online made the program even more attractive.
“That was the thing that drew me to Arkansas State — it was completely online, which really helped me out,” she said. “I have three kids, my husband’s a football coach, and I’m working full time. There’s just no time for me to go to school physically.”
A strong program that fit perfectly with her busy schedule was important for Correia, but what really sealed the deal was A-State’s reputation.
“I had talked to several of my colleagues, and they really enjoyed the classes and said the professors were amazing,” she explained. “The teachers I work with did a great job of promoting the school, saying how wonderful it was and how much they got out of it.”
Motivation and Inspiration
Correia knew that she wanted to be teacher when she was in elementary school.
“I remember seeing my teachers walk around with their coffee cups, and they could drink coffee anytime that they wanted to,” she laughed. “I wanted to be the teacher so I could drink coffee anytime I wanted to.”
That dream began to take shape in junior high when she met Rick, the man who would one day become her husband.
“He knew he was going to be a teacher and coach, and I thought that it would be nice if we could have our summers off together,” she said. “I worked at daycare, and I enjoyed being around the kids all the time and teaching them. These little kids stole my heart. I wanted to be around kids so that I could protect them and really be there for them.”
Correia sees her desire to become a principal as an extension of her motivation to become an elementary school teacher.
“I teach at a Title 1 school,” she explained. “A lot of our kids go through quite a bit, and it takes a different kind of person to be able to deal with and understand the situations that our kids go through here. I would have a lot more power to help as a principal.”
The chance to set an example for her children Madison (14), Brooklyn (9) and Madden (4) also motivated Correia to enroll in the online program.
“I’m trying to be a role model for my kids and show them how important continuing your education is,” she said. “It’s going to be hard work, but it’s definitely worth it in the long run.”
How to Make a Leader
Like her colleagues who enrolled in the program before she did, Correia got a lot out of the program, learning how to be a better teacher today and a better leader tomorrow.
In ELCI 6063: Curriculum Management, she developed her research skills and began to rethink the curriculum of her own classroom.
“I got to actually do a lot of research on different types of curriculum, and I got to dive into the actual curriculums that we use here in Russellville and identify the pros and the cons,” she said. “Because of the research I did on some of the science curriculums, I was actually able to bring that to the table, and we adopted one of the curriculums.”
The MSE program also taught Correia how to think like a leader. The ELAD 6103: Ethical Leadership class prompted her to look at different situations through the lens of her dream job.
“They would give us different types of scenarios in which a student had done something and gave you different ways to think about it as a principal,” she said. “I would see things from a whole different perspective. Sometimes, that is very difficult for me in the classroom. It made me realize how to dig a little deeper.”
Correia completed her Master of Science in Education in May 2019, and after a short break, she began digging even deeper by enrolling in the online Education Specialist program in Educational Leadership, Superintendency program at A-State.
“The Ed.S. program will give me insight into the business side of the school district and where budgets come from,” she said. “This will also benefit me when I get ready to apply for a principal job.”
With one advanced degree behind her and another one to go, Correia is as surprised by her accomplishments as she is excited for what her future holds.
“When I first started doing it, I thought I just wanted to do it for the pay bump,” she said. “But as I was going through these courses, I realized how much I actually do want to be a principal and take on a leadership role in the district.
“It really is what you make of it.”