Originally from Oklahoma City, Josh Wilson attended Oklahoma State after high school. He graduated with his bachelor’s in Secondary Education (Mathematics) in 2012 and took a short break before returning for his master’s in Teaching and Learning Leadership with an emphasis in Mathematics Education, which he completed in 2016. Josh’s commitment to advancing his education so he could better serve students didn’t stop there.
After completing his master’s, Josh moved to Tennessee where he teaches high school math in Nashville. In addition to teaching algebra I and geometry for those on the college preparatory track, Josh is the assistant coach for speech and debate as well as co-moderator for his school’s student ambassador program. As if those responsibilities weren’t enough, he also teaches as an adjunct faculty member at Columbia State Community College in the math department.
Because of Josh’s busy schedule, when he began considering more advanced degree options, a program’s flexibility was critical. “I knew I needed to consider online options. I was originally looking for a PhD, but then I learned about the educational specialist option, and Alabama’s online programs popped up.” Josh had limited knowledge of Alabama and its flagship university, having never even been in the state, but he began looking into UA’s 100% online EdS in Educational Leadership (Teacher Leader Certification). “From my research, it seemed like a good program to be involved in. Once I was accepted, I dove in.”
Diving in required intentional time management as Josh took two courses per semester to finish the 30-credit-hour degree along with his cohort in just five semesters. Since he taught in the evenings at the community college, he did most of his graduate coursework on the weekends. “I spent a lot of hours at coffee shops in town – reading, writing, doing discussion posts. I tried my best to leave my teaching work at school so my weekends were free for grad school. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I like to be busy,” he said.
Even as a master’s educated teacher with years of experience in different school settings, Josh found UA’s faculty had enlightening knowledge to offer him that has helped him in his career. “This degree program really opened my eyes to the other side of education. It focused on ethical issues educational leaders face, social justice issues in education, curriculum and how to design it, as well as research topics,” he said. The program’s robust coursework gave Josh an appreciation for the role of administrators, and enhanced his classroom methods. “It changed the way I teach because I see things through a different lens now.”
Josh’s favorite courses came in his last semester of coursework: Leading Learning Through Curriculum with Dr. Yvette Bynum and Multicultural and Social Issues in Educational Leadership with Dr. Nirmala Erevelles. About Dr. Erevelles’ class, he recalled, “There were rich discussions and raw emotions, and those discussions helped me grow and learn as a human being.” Referring to Dr. Bynum’s class, he said, “She opened my eyes to what curriculum is and what it means to me – the context and how to help our school reach its goals.” Josh said of the classes he’s taken across all three of his degrees, these two were the most beneficial. “From the instruction and the content to the amount of respect everyone had for each other which allowed us to learn in a safe environment – everything came full circle for me in those two courses.”
Josh graduated in August 2020. Due to COVID-19 concerns, he did not travel to Tuscaloosa for commencement, but hopes to visit the campus one day. The additional degree has earned him a pay increase, and he is already thinking about his next steps. He still has his sights set on a PhD in Education so he can enhance his teaching methods to better serve his students. “One day I’d like to go the collegiate route and help train the next generation of math educators – or even toward political leadership endeavors in education. But I’m not ready to leave high school yet. I love being able to mold minds and see students grow from their freshman year to their junior year.
“Students really don’t care whether you have a PhD or you’re from off the street. In fact, that terminal degree can be a barrier that separates you even more. We’re there to instruct and teach and mold their minds. It’ll be great to have ‘PhD’ at the end of my name, but truly for me, it’s about my personal growth and professional development to be able to do my job the best that I possibly can.”
Published: September 9th, 2020