This is Kelly Dunbar’s story. She is a UC Master of Education in Educational Leadership graduate, and has been a facilitator for five years now. Take a moment to learn about cohorts from someone who makes them work.
Everyone knows someone like Kelly: she always had the skills to be a teacher…it just took her a little time to heed that calling. Finding the right fit in college was difficult because she was interested in so many disciplines. After settling on Russian as her major, it quickly became apparent that she wanted more. While reflecting on her life, she realized that some of her proudest moments came as she was presenting to a class or leading a discussion. “Teaching allowed me to learn about a lot of things—and I love learning.”
Today, in addition to facilitating the Educational Leadership program, she is a 3rd grade teacher. Kelly got this degree because she wanted to be a better leader for her students and her fellow educators. Kelly has put her degree to good use in the classroom, as chair of multiple committees, and as a union president. She has no plans to become an administrator, but understood that the leadership skills developed throughout the program would be invaluable no matter what path her career took. At the end of the day, she “just wants to be a better teacher.”
In Kelly’s own words, “If there is one reason to choose UC, it’s because of cohorts!” The cohort in the UC program functions as a support system and a sounding board. As a facilitator, Kelly’s first job is to get the students to use and share within the group: “In the beginning I am asked a lot of questions, but will pose these back to the cohort; it’s a way for them to work as a team to solve problems.” It usually happens quickly—often by the end of the first quarter—for this new “leadership team” to learn to rely on each other for answers. At that time, the facilitator’s role changes: they must foster leadership skills and get the students to think like administrators. The last part is the most important. It’s not always about getting the right answer, but about the way you reach your conclusions. Most teachers think like educators, but that is far different than thinking like an administrator.
Just how important is a cohort to your education experience and your life outside the classroom? While she was a student in the Educational Leadership program, Kelly developed such strong friendships that two of her cohort members became bridesmaids in her wedding! “Many MEd programs just show you how to manage, but UC’s program focuses on the philosophical reasons behind being a good leader. Having those deep discussions brings you closer to your cohort and prepares you for a career where you must understand other perspectives.”