Crystal London was born to be in the classroom.
"I enjoy being in school as much as I love teaching it," she said. "After gaining some experience, I wanted to get back to school to round it out with a little more learning and professional development."
So, London graduated from the online Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Educational Leadership program at the University of Louisiana Monroe in 2018. She is now in the doctoral candidate phase of the online Doctor of Education in Curriculum & Instruction program at ULM.
"I come from a family of teachers," she said. "My mom, Delores Mitchell, taught for years in Louisiana and Minnesota. Gleaning from her experiences inspired me to look in that direction.
"I have been informally involved in teaching since I graduated from high school. Those experiences snowballed until it became a profession."
London is currently a teacher at Zachary Elementary School in Zachary, Louisiana, where she was named the 2015 Teacher of the Year for the district.
"I spent 10 years at a private school, where I worked as a teacher, an administrator and in various capacities," she said. "I wanted to gain that experience in public school. There are different types of criteria to have that experience in the public realm."
The flexibility of the online format helped London earn a degree while balancing a full-time job and a family. She and her husband, Keith, have three children — Joy (8), Aubrey (6) and Christian (4).
"I was the mom of an infant when I started the master's program," she said. "I was up in the middle of the night anyway attending to my child, so it provided a good opportunity to supplement that time with other productive activities. I was able to do homework or read whenever, which made all of the difference for me."
Bridging the Gap
London is from Baton Rouge, and she graduated from Louisiana State University with a pair of bachelor's degrees in Spanish and business in 2010. She chose ULM for the opportunity to earn a master's degree online.
"I looked at several different alternatives," she said. "I was drawn to this program because of its flexibility. I also spoke to the director of the program to find out more about it and how it aligned to my future professional needs, as well as educational research needs."
Multicultural Education Perspectives was London's favorite course in the online M.Ed. in Educational Leadership program curriculum.
"That course was life-changing," she said. "Some of the critical issues in education that I encountered are still continuing to play into my perspectives as a scholar and a researcher, as well as in teaching."
However, London took away significant and applicable knowledge from each of the courses in the program.
"The educational law class [Legal, Ethical, and Regulatory Issues] was rigorous but well worth it," she said. She also liked the professional development, instructional leadership, and organizational theory courses.
"I still apply what I learned in that class to critique my own professional practices today and to inform my research. There are so many great courses in the program. It was very practical."
While London is a natural learner at heart, she also credits her family and friends for supporting her throughout her return to higher education.
"They understood my love of learning and pretty much expected I would be going back [to school] at some time to continue," she said. "My family has been my biggest support system. It's important to have the people closest to you be in agreement with your decision. I could not do it without my husband and children. I tell them that every day."
London completed the master's degree experience by making the trip to Monroe to walk in the commencement ceremony. She prizes the experience for the impact it had on her kids.
"I had the opportunity to have all three of my children there," she said. "It was special to me."
Earning a master's degree also paved the way for London to pursue principalship and superintendent certification. She plans to move into an administrative role in the future and notes that communication is one of the most crucial skills for a student in the online M.Ed. in Educational Leadership program. She is waiting for her children to grow a little older before she becomes an administrator.
"I was grateful the master's program helped me get those two certifications," she said.
"Online learning is a little different. It's a diverse, robust community enriched by the fact that your classmates will be from all over the world. I would encourage potential students to call the school and talk to the director and the professors. They were friendly and accommodating with answering any questions I had about the program."
Soon London will complete the Doctor of Education in C&I program, but she will never lose her passion for learning or being an educator.
"I got more out of the master's degree program than I initially expected," she said. "I wanted to round out my experience with research-based theory and applied practices.
"I walked away with principal and superintendent certifications. I was able to gain valuable experiences in the school where I work and some valuable relationships with my professors that I maintain to this day."
Learn more about ULM's online M.Ed. in Educational Leadership program.
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