Changing Lives One Student at a Time

Posted by Janae Melvin on September 29, 2015 in College, education, of, School After a successful career in the business world that spanned more than 20 years, Brian Watson ’01/MAEd ’15 was looking to do something new. He wanted to make an impact. He wanted to change lives.

He wanted to be a teacher.

It was 10 years ago when he began researching programs that would allow him the flexibility to continue working while earning his teaching licensure. The easiest track would have been for him to take his MBA into a high school setting and teach business classes, but that’s not what Watson wanted to do.

“I knew I could make a bigger impact at the elementary education level,” said Watson. “People can remember that point in their lives around the 4th or 5th grade. There’s something about development at that age – they can recall lessons learned or the teachers they had. I also wanted the opportunity to teach a variety of subjects and create a community within my classroom.”

Knowing completing his teacher’s license would require a balance between work, family and school, he spent significant time researching colleges in the area to find the program that would fit his schedule best and prepare him for a successful career. He found Ottawa University and Dean of the School of Education, Dr. Amy Hogan.

Together, they designed a plan that allowed him to complete his license on his timetable, one that took more than four years. Little did he know that a decade later, he’d find himself working with Dr. Hogan again, this time to map out his path towards a Masters of Arts in Education in educational leadership. She was excited to help him get started.

“As a student, I have witnessed Brian’s practice as energetic and caring,” said Hogan. “He demonstrates the promise of the teacher education mission in his reflection practice and communication style.”

When Watson decided to become a teacher, working his way to an administrator role was not part of his plan. Slowly, people within the district he was teaching began asking him if he had ever considered taking on a leadership role at a school. He initially scoffed at the idea, believing he had been down that road in the business sector. The more he was asked, the more he began to realize he was being presented the opportunity to make an impact on an entire community – students, teachers and parents – something he now sees as an extension of his original calling to be a teacher. In order to take the next step towards becoming a principal, he needed a master’s degree and Watson knew exactly where he wanted to earn that degree.

“When I originally chose OU, I did so because their programs allowed me to be flexible in my coursework as an adult student. When I decided to go back and get my master’s degree, I didn’t look at any other university. I knew OU would work with and for me.”

Hogan and Watson created a plan that was a bit unusual – complete 36 hours of course work in four terms, beginning January 2015. The reason for such an intensive arrangement? In July, he stepped into his new principal’s office at Tomahawk Elementary School in Overland Park, Kan.

“Dr. Hogan laid out a path that worked for me. The programs were scheduled in a very practical way. While the assignments were different, the material and applications were similar,” said Watson. “Everything I did in my classes was applicable to Tomahawk Elementary School. With each topic or assignment I was able to think about how it would apply to my situation, my school day.”

Watson hasn’t been shy about telling people why he chose OU and encourages others to take a look at the programs offered.

“OU brings applicable, real world learning to the classroom,” he said. “It brings flexibility to the working adult and the ability to customize the program to fit the needs of each individual student.”

Almost all of Watson’s classes were online, allowing him to work around his busy schedule as a teacher and a high school and college basketball official, in addition to spending time with his wife and two sons.

“The MAEd programs are offered in an eight-week online format nationwide and offered in a ground format at the Residential campus and Arizona campuses,” said Hogan. “Assignments are structured around the students’ world and assist in expanding skills in community relations, global awareness, parent involvement, student advocacy, innovative intervention strategies, and best teaching practices.”

Watson may not have envisioned himself as a principal one day, but now that he has the title he knows he’s ready.

“I recognize that I have a hard job. I have a building full of teachers, students and parents all looking for leadership, but each constituent having a different definition of success,” he said. “OU has equipped me to take on that challenge and I’m excited about it. I feel prepared and I’m ready.”