Taking a conventional approach to higher education never suited Grace Simmons.
Simmons stayed true to herself as she jumped straight into the Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership program at Mississippi College after completing eight courses in the Education Specialist (Ed.S.) in Educational Leadership degree program.
"It made sense for me to pool that money I spent on the specialist degree and start working on the doctorate. I knew I was going to get my doctorate eventually."
Simmons quickly realized that MC met her lofty standards for academic institutions once she enrolled in the Ed.S. in Educational Leadership program.
"I was so impressed with the professors, the content and Mississippi College, in general," she said. "I appreciate and support strong educational programs, and I felt MC had a very challenging curriculum. I thought it was a very impressive private institution that I can't say enough great things about. I highly recommend it to people who are continuing their education. I think Mississippi College is stellar."
After graduating from high school in Macon, Georgia, Simmons packed up and moved to Fort Worth, Texas, to earn a bachelor's degree in communications and public relations at Texas Christian University. Simmons, who had never been to the Lone Star State before starting college, wanted to work in advertising.
So, how exactly did she become a teacher? Remember that unconventionality?
"I took a children's literature course at TCU because I knew I'd get an easy 'A' in it," Simmons said. "I did it to boost my GPA. I fell in love with the course so much that I changed my major to education [in] my junior year. I remember going back to the dorm to call my parents and tell them. My family said, 'I always knew you were going to be a teacher.' I must have it in me somewhere."
Simmons, who earned a master's degree in education in curriculum and instruction at Ole Miss, is a fifth-grade English teacher at Jackson Academy in Jackson, Mississippi. Simmons plans to graduate from the doctoral program around 2020.
"I went back to school later in life," she said. "I thought about going back for years, but it is a big consideration financially and with the time commitment. When I looked at schools, there was something about Mississippi College that I was really drawn to. I was impressed right away.
"For my particular circumstances, it made more sense to go on and start putting my time toward the doctorate. The Ed.S. is a great degree to have for those who want to serve as administrators."
Simmons enjoyed all eight of the courses she took in the Ed.S. in Educational Leadership curriculum, but EDU 6520: Basic Effective Leadership and EDU 7541: Legal Structures & Legal Issues were two of her favorites.
"Because of Mississippi College and my experience taking some of the Ed.S. classes, I went ahead and looked toward the doctoral program," Simmons said. "Even though I didn't finish the Ed.S. program, it says a lot for the school that I am willing to make the commitment in monies and time to pursue the doctorate. I'm one of the few private school teachers in the program."
With a lot of leadership experience in volunteer organizations, Simmons believes the Ed.S. in Educational Leadership courses provide valuable insights into leadership.
"Going back to school and getting fresh perspectives on organizational leadership and effective leadership have been really invaluable," she said. "A lot of people in the Ed.S. want to go into central office positions. For me, that's not a dream. I'd like to lead a lower school or a division of a lower school. I'm looking forward to having that 'Dr.' in front of my name."
Teaching & Learning
Simmons will be plenty busy as she continues teaching full-time while pursuing a doctoral degree. Even though it wasn't the normal path, Simmons is happy she gained experience in the Ed.S. in Educational Leadership program before jumping ahead to the doctorate.
"It was so impressive to me that Mississippi College was offering a degree higher than your master's but not quite a doctorate," she said. "That appealed to me and let me get my toes wet without going full-fledged into the doctoral program."
Also, MC's faith-based mission remains important to Simmons.
"I was in faith-based schools all of my childhood, so that probably played a lot into it," she said. "I'm also pretty involved with my church. When people ask me where I go to school, I'm very proud to say, 'Mississippi College.' When I go job hunting, the fact that I took classes at Mississippi College will carry a lot more weight than other degrees."
Simmons will likely continue embracing less conventional roads to success. After all, that way of thinking led her to the right career.
"I'm definitely called to be an educator -- no doubt in my mind," she said. "I'm in the profession that I'm supposed to be in, and I'm very proud this is the profession that has chosen me. It's a very admirable profession that I take very seriously. I know that I'm key in all of these little people's lives every day. There's not a more important job than that."
Learn about the MC online Ed.S. in Educational Leadership program.
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