Jane Hudspeth figured it was time for a change after 20 years of teaching in the classroom.
But a funny thing happened as she earned a Master of Education in Educational Leadership Certification online from the University of West Florida.
“I really thought I would enjoy being an assistant principal and getting a broader perspective,” Hudspeth said. “My passion is curriculum, so I really wanted to have an impact on the type of curriculum that schools choose, help other teachers who are having trouble with curriculum and make sure we can all strengthen [the curriculum] together. Since I graduated, I actually have had my teaching reinforced, and I’m staying in the classroom. When I broadened my teaching base and saw things from a different perspective, it allowed me to come back and teach with a different perspective, and I’m enjoying that.”
That closer look at how all of the curriculum-based decisions are made in educational environments rejuvenated Hudspeth’s passion for teaching.
“When you are in the classroom, you have a very narrow vision of the scope and sequence of the big picture,” she said. “The goings-on of your day consist of you and your 100-plus students, so you’re short focused in your vision of the school environment and how all of the workings go on. With my degree, I could get more into why a lot of these decisions are made that impact the school.”
From Business to Education
Hudspeth was originally a business major in marketing and management at Florida State University. While she worked for a small commuter airline during the summer, she discovered her true calling.
“I had to go to Atlanta and do all of these computer programs and teach them to people,” she said.
“The people were like, ‘Hey, you’re really good. You ought to be a teacher.’ They kept saying, ‘You’re missing your calling as a teacher.’ As the airline was struggling and beginning to go bankrupt, I said, ‘I’m just going to get out of this and go to what I think my calling is, and that is teaching.’ So, I started over and got into middle school teaching.”
So, Hudspeth transferred to UWF and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Education with a Specialization in Teaching Social Studies in the Middle and Secondary Schools in 1993. She has taught eighth-grade U.S. history and coached at Meigs Middle School in Shalimar, Florida, for the last 20 years. Hudspeth coached cheerleading up until six years ago, when she moved over to coach tennis.
“I was a ballerina,” she said. “I danced for the Northwest Florida Ballet. When I was at Florida State, I was a Golden Girl, which is a big part of the dance program. I started two school dance programs in our district we still have. When I got out of college and started teaching, they didn’t have dance programs. They had cheer programs.”
In addition to teaching and coaching, Hudspeth plays tennis, shoots skeet, hikes and does whatever other activity strikes her fancy at any given moment.
“Usually with the things I do, my family looks at me like, ‘What are you going to do now?'” Hudspeth said. “I never stop dabbling into so many different things, so my family is used to it. I just decided I was going to go online and learn how to play a violin. I got a violin, started taking lessons and playing. I decided I wanted to knit everybody scarves for Christmas, so I went online and did a tutorial and did that. They’re used to me doing stuff all of the time. [Earning an online degree] was just another one of those, ‘What is mom doing now?'”
An Argonaut Again
Because UWF was her alma mater, she decided to go back to the school for a master’s degree. She was very pleased with her decision.
“I really have nothing but accolades for this online program,” she said. “It was exactly what one needs to do if they have a job in any field. You can schedule it and do your coursework at your convenience. You don’t have to be on site, in a classroom and forced to waste an hour when it can be done in 30 minutes.
“I’m very good at time management. For many teachers, of course, that’s part of being a teacher, so that component was really important for me. When I saw all of the curriculum and saw that I could do this and work it around my schedule, I never procrastinated. I was able to get the work done way in advance and submit it with no late anything. It was a breeze. That part of it was so easy for me.”
Two of the most insightful courses that led Hudspeth to sticking with teaching in the classroom were Data Driven Decisions Using Standardized Student Achievement Data [EDG 6285] and Law and Education [EDA 6232].
“A big component of what I teach is the constitution, so getting into educational law … I just eat that stuff up,” she said. “The data-driven decision was powerful to me because I’m actually reading and getting deeper than, ‘Hey, you’ve got to do this stuff in your classroom this year.’ Now, I’m looking at the data that the administrator looks at, and we are looking at bridging the gap and working on the lowest 25th percentile.
“I’m a department chair, so when I’m working with the other social studies teachers, I can come in and help them better understand why we’re doing this and that it is research-based that these are going to improve scores. We’ve been a 13-plus-year A-plus school. By placing these data-driven initiatives and best practices at our school, the proof is in the pudding. We’re doing it.”
Hudspeth said she was also immediately able to apply the knowledge she gained in her online courses to her teaching.
“The coursework was so purposeful that every single course immediately applied back to my classroom or the broader perspective of the school’s operation,” she said. “I loved that part of it. I had immediate reinforcement and gratification of applying it immediately and also seeing that it works. These strategies aren’t just selling a textbook — they are great strategies that do help improve student achievement.”
Great Support System
I really want to encourage people who are reluctant about the technology and tell them they can handle it.”
As a returning student taking all online courses, Hudspeth said UWF promptly handled her technology issues.
“I really want to encourage people who are reluctant about the technology and tell them they can handle it,” she said. “I want them to not let that be something that stops them. The program itself has so much technological support. The teachers are amazing at working with you and helping you through everything.
“The faculty at UWF is worth its weight in gold; they will help you in any area you need help. I was having problems with Dropbox, and I got through immediately with the tech support help desk. It’s 24/7, and they will help you immediately fix or resolve your problem. There’s no reason not to do it. If you’re a little reluctant about the technology, it’s just not worth stopping over that.”
Hudspeth added that strong time management skills is the most vital part of being a successful online student.
“Of course, being able to write and sit back and just not get behind on the work is the secret,” she said. “The workload itself, if you have good time management skills and plan and do it, is not a burden. You don’t have to give up your life. You don’t have to give up your job. It works within your own time, which was a big benefit to me.
“Our school is early start, so I’m out by 1:30 or 2 o’clock. Even with coaching two hours after that, I still have the evenings. The work doesn’t cut into your life so much where you have to give up your hobbies and your family life. You can work around all of that. Bottom line: it’s about good time management. It’s definitely well worth it.”
Learn more about the UWF online M.Ed. in Educational Leadership program.
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