When DeSean Dyson graduated with a Master of Education in Educational Leadership from Mississippi College, he knew he was far from finished with his higher education.
“Hopefully, I’m about a year away from starting the doctoral program,” Dyson said. “It just seems like the next step. Much to that end, I told myself I would only go to my doctoral graduation.”
Dyson, Head of School at The Redeemer’s School in Jackson, Mississippi, comes from a family of educators, including both his parents and three of his four siblings. However, he planned to become a lawyer after earning a history degree with a political science minor as a football player at Belhaven College, now Belhaven University.
“I just felt like the Lord was calling me to education,” he said. “I knew when I got into education, my plan was always to be a school leader. You need that graduate degree to do that. You have to teach for at least three years to get into the Ed Leadership program. I knew I was going to do it one day.”
Back Home to Clinton
Dyson grew up in the shadows of Mississippi College in Clinton. He played football for Clinton High School, where he said he earned a quality education.
“Clinton Public Schools is consistently ranked one of the top two or three districts in the state of Mississippi,” he said. “In a state that’s not known for educational excellence, it’s a beacon — a really, really good place. A lot of the school leaders there went to Mississippi College, so that gave it some instant credibility for me.”
Dyson attended on campus as part of a cohort.
“We went from about 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for five or six weeks during the summer, and then we had classes during the semester,” he said. “It was a Master of [Education in] Educational Leadership cohort. There were 12-15 of us. It was an intensive time together over the course of about 18 months.
“I’m not one of those folks who wants to take a class in the fall and the spring for six years … that would just make me tired. I enjoyed the structure of being able to just fully commit to it for a couple of years.”
Mississippi College now offers the M.Ed. in Educational Leadership program online in addition to the on-campus version.
Although he graduated from Mississippi College in 2011, Dyson still keeps in touch with several of his cohort members.
“In the past month, I’ve seen four of my classmates,” he said. “That’s one of the highlights of my time there — my cohort was a really strong group, and we stay pretty connected.”
Another reason Dyson enjoyed returning home: he was a running backs coach at his alma mater, Clinton High School.
“As I was getting my master’s, I was actually coaching at a pretty competitive place,” he said. “I always said I would only coach as long as I could teach.”
Dyson said his experience at Mississippi College definitely helped mold him into a well-rounded educational leader.
“I’m a big believer in learning from practitioners,” he said. “The faculty, both leading the program and teaching the courses, were really high-quality people. That meant a lot to me.”
Leading the Way
Dyson has been in his current position for three years. He also served as assistant principal at Hinds County School District for two years, a job he landed one year after earning a master’s degree. He said Organizational Leadership was the most valuable course in the Mississippi College curriculum.
“As a school leader now, I realize my hands can touch a limited amount of things,” he said. “The organization functions better when everybody functions better, not just me in that capacity.
“The course did a really good job of laying the groundwork of culture, admission and how this isn’t necessarily about you being great at your job. It’s about you motivating, empowering and putting people in positions to succeed. I like to believe the people who work for me say that I care about how people feel and the way they function because the program instilled that in me.”
Dyson said he has seen additional evidence of the high quality of education he received at Mississippi College, including being around colleagues preparing to take their administrator license test.
“They were getting ready to take that test and were preparing for it, and I just realized I was so much more well-equipped,” he said. “It wasn’t that these people weren’t sharp or smart, but they’ve just not been prepared in a way where success was going to be easy for them. That’s something that every day, whether it be the relationships with the professors or my colleagues or even the tangible instruction and things I learned, is really a blessing to me.”
Onward and Upward
Having graduated with an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership in 2011, Dyson is plotting a return to school for his doctorate. He and his wife Alicia have been married for 10 years. They have three children, Christian (7), Avery (4) and Michael (2).
“Education policy is so unique and nuanced depending on where you go,” he said. “That system is built more for public educators. There is still plenty of stuff I can use now, but that’s something I would say about it. With government appointments and changing tides, I think every program in the country is going to have to adapt a little bit to attract different types of students.”
Even with his education and position leading a school, Dyson said it’s not easy to feel smart in his family.
“I consider myself the dumb one,” he joked. “It’s just sort of par for the course. They’re happy that I’m doing things and working hard.”
All kidding aside, Dyson knows he’s on the right career path.
“Human beings are complex,” he said. “The process of educating and raising them is also very complex. The more skilled and knowledgeable you can make yourself in doing that work, it’s a worthy investment. The more you learn, the more you realize you need those tools to help you do a hard job.”
Learn more about the Mississippi College online M.Ed. in Educational Leadership program.