South faculty pursue higher education, passion for learning

Augie Mikell, staff reporter

After students graduate from college, they reach a stoplight on their educational highway. While some may choose to stop at the red light and not continue their education, others decide to go at the green light and pursue more. For example, some teachers at GBS are currently in the process of furthering their education.

According to Physical Education (PE) Teacher Joshua Stanton, he is currently getting his master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction at Concordia University of Chicago. Stanton wanted to continue to further his education because he believes people should never stop learning.

“The day you stop learning is not a good day, and even teachers who know a lot about our content area can always be looking for the newest possible thing to bring into our classrooms or maybe get instilled in us that we can use [this information] to make ourselves better at what we do,” Stanton said.

According to Stanton, he thinks it is important for educators to continue to pursue their education as a way to help them in the classroom. Stanton said if educators choose not to continue educating themselves, this can have a negative effect on their teaching.

“As an educator, you constantly have to stay ahead of the curb and continue to grow in order to be the best at what you do,” Stanton said. “If you become complacent with where you’re at in terms of your content, knowledge and ways to interact with students, you can get a little bit dull or boring at times to the point where you’re spinning your wheels and going through the motions.”

Stanton said a moment that stands out to him in the process of getting his master’s degree was when he was given the opportunity to work with the special education students.

“It’s something a lot of times in P.E. we get to work with, but it’s on a very small scale,” Stanton said. “Finding out more about that student population and ways to interact with them, [along with] making them feel more comfortable and creating an environment that’s more nurturing to them, is something that really stood out to me.”

According to Michael Sinde, Applied Technology teacher, he is currently getting his doctorate degree in Instructional Technology at Northern Illinois University. Sinde said he was inspired to educate himself because of his father,  who never graduated high school himself because of having to work at a young age, had a history of struggling to have an education.

“When [my father] lost his job, he sat me down and said, ‘Listen, I’m having a hard time finding another job because I don’t have an education’,” Sinde said. “That stuck to me to this day and is part of the reason I became a teacher and kept going to school. He really instilled in me the importance of having a strong academic background to make sure that I didn’t fall in the same situation he was in.”

According to Sinde, one thing he has enjoyed in the process of getting his doctorate is having the opportunity to choose what classes he takes instead of being required to take certain classes. For example, Sinde said he has noticed this in his seminal course work, which are classes where students work on essays about specific subjects to earn their doctorate.

“Your teacher says write a paper, and you get to choose what topic for the paper and how in depth you go or what angle you take at it,” Sinde said. “It’s really an amazing opportunity because you’re learning exactly what you want to learn.”

Sinde said he is very grateful for the close relationship that he has formed with his professors in the process of getting his Doctorate. He explains that he was able to connect with his professors on a more personal level during a conference he attended in Indianapolis.

“A lot of times when you have teachers, you see them during class and never outside of class,” Sinde said. “At that conference, it was really nice to hang out with them and learn more about their research interests and what they’ve done versus my research interests and how we can work together.”

According to Band Director Aaron Wojcik, he is about to begin a cohort program sponsored by District 225, which is a program that consists of a group of educators who are working towards a specific degree, in order to receive his master’s degree in Educational Leadership. Wojcik said he was inspired to get this degree from other teachers at South.

“We have Mr. Sirvatka, who balances his ensemble along with his administrative duties, which I think is a fantastic thing to be able to do,” Wojcik said. “We have Dr. Shellard, who is just the power in the building, and even our new principal, Mrs. Fagel. There are some things I see each of these people do that I find amazing.”

According to Wojcik, although he is passionate about getting his master’s degree, he does not want to let the process interfere with his job as a band director at GBS.

“The biggest concern for me, and in my own professional pride is to make sure that while I’m trying to better my own education, I’m not doing it at the expense of my student’s experience in the band program and the quality of work that I put through in my job,” Wojcik said. “It does me no good to get a higher degree and become more qualified at something but do a worse job at it.”

Wojcik said he is looking forward to having a different perspective on getting his degree, as he believes it will be different compared to when he was in college because he is choosing to get this degree himself.

“As you look at every class and everything like that, it’s something that I’m doing for no other reason than the choice that I did it,” Wojcik said. “It’s not like your parents said you had to go to college, [but] it’s going to be the fact of doing something just for me.”

According to Sinde, one thing he has learned in the process of getting his doctorate is the importance of time management.

“Time management is a skill set you have to have in everything in life, whether it be your school work, your personal life, et cetera,” Sinde said. “When you get to this point [in your education], there are no due dates. You have to set your own due dates, which is something that you have to get used to.”

Wojcik said he faced many struggles with trying to find a program where he could get his Master’s degree because of his commitment to the Music Department at South.  However, he believes the cohort program will work well for him because instead of having to take classes at Northeastern Illinois University, which is in partnership with the program, the university will send teachers to the District 225 building, which is where the classes will be held.

“I didn’t see a lot of possibilities of things that would work until [the university] said, ‘Hey, we are going to bring teachers to the school’,” Wojcik said. “When that started becoming a thing, it opened up things from the realm of impossibility to more of, ‘Hey, this could work,’ so I’m really excited about that.”

According to Stanton, as he reaches the end of his journey to getting his master’s degree, which he will receive in December, he is very happy with what he has been able to accomplish.

“It’s a very rewarding and fulfilling thing to look back and see that you’ve achieved all that you’ve done,” Stanton said. “I know I started [my master’s] program a year and a half ago, but it seems like it’s been the blink of an eye and it’s really going to be over. I definitely look back at it and see all that I’ve done and all the hours I’ve put in, and it makes you have a sense of accomplishment that you’ve really achieved something.”