Posted December 15, 2017 – When UH graduate student Jane’t Johnson walks across the stage at graduation Friday, she’ll be joined by 10 of her coworkers in the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District.
They are also classmates and soon-to-be fellow graduates.
Johnson is part of a specially designed program at the University of Houston College of Education that allows a class of mostly Cy-Fair ISD educators to pursue master’s degrees in educational leadership together. An educator from Tomball ISD also joined the class.
“I like how we started as 12 and ended as 12,” Johnson said. “I was glad that all of a sudden we were getting close and building relationships with each other. Now, it’s more than they are in my cohort – I can actually call them my friends.”
As part of the recently revamped program, the students don’t have to travel far from their day jobs – classes are held at a Cy-Fair ISD facility. In addition, classes are kept small to encourage close relationships, and the work is packed into one year, said Bradley Carpenter, an associate professor and program director in the College’s Educational Leadership and Policy Studies department.
The College also partners with the Fort Bend school district on master’s and doctoral degree programs in educational leadership – training aspiring principals, superintendents and other school leaders.
After the Cy-Fair group’s last class, student Stephanie Ingvardsen took to Twitter to post a group photo with her smiling classmates holding red T-shirts that said, “COOG LEADERS #CyFairCoogs17.”
“12 people. 1 year. M.Ed degree,” she wrote. “Words cannot express how thankful I am for each & every person in this @UHCOE cohort. We did it! Can’t wait to walk across that stage together.”
The Cy-Fair cohort will be among the roughly 265 students graduating from the UH College of Education in fall 2017, with commencement taking place Friday.
Ingvardsen, who attended Cy-Fair ISD from elementary through high school, works as a third-grade language arts teacher at Wells Elementary. Her husband, Cass, a teacher and coach at Salyards Middle, also was part of the cohort. She said she looks forward to using her master’s degree to become a leader within her home district – now the third largest in Texas.
“It gave us an inside look of the district we may be moving up in,” she said. “We get to learn the inside things that not all programs get. It’s different being a leader in this district versus other districts. Most of us in the cohort are products of Cy-Fair, so we’re invested in this district.”
Johnson also grew up in Cy-Fair and graduated with a bachelor’s from the UH College of Education in 2008.
Now a math curriculum coach, Johnson said she hopes one day to become a director of instruction and math coordinator. When she was considering getting a master’s, she said she knew she wanted to return to her alma mater.
“I love UH. If I could tell anybody where to go, I would tell them in a heartbeat to go to UH. They prepare us well and prepare us for current education initiatives,” Johnson said.
A key part of the program is an internship that involves students working with and learning from Cy-Fair ISD school and district leaders. Glenda Horner, Cy-Fair’s director for staff development and an adjunct professor at UH, taught two of the internship courses. She also worked with UH to create and implement the redesigned program last year.
“It’s all about great people,” said Horner, who earned an Ed.D. from UH in 2011. “I feel connected to the faculty at UH to the extent that I chose to join their team. It’s easy to sell something you believe in, and I believe in this great work. I wanted to be a part of that, and for Cy-Fair to benefit from that.”
UH’s Carpenter, who helped develop the program, said he looks forward to greeting the first graduating class of the revamped cohort at commencement Friday.
“We are building a family network of practitioners. Public education today is difficult, and I tell them that we are family,” Carpenter said. “At the end of the day, we’re all #CoogLeaders trying to transform public schools.”–By Claire Andersen
–Photo courtesy of Stephanie Ingvardsen
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