Although Douglas Whitman is still getting settled in his first administrative job, he already has one key attribute of successful leadership down pat.
"A lot of people told me, 'You've got a lot of energy. You should be an administrator,'" he said. "I taught at a juvenile detention center and saw the way that schools are failing to reach a lot of students.
"Earning a master's degree wasn't the plan at all. I am not a really ambitious person, but I wanted to make a bigger impact than what I was doing in my tiny juvenile justice classroom."
Whitman, the new assistant principal at Barbara B. Yarbrough Elementary School in Midland, graduated with a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership from the online program at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin in May 2019.
"One of the assistant principals at my school attended UTPB and told me about the program," he said. "The campus was also pretty close and the tuition rates were affordable. I got my assistant principal job within a few weeks of starting to apply for leadership positions."
The hands-on approach of the online MA in Educational Leadership program gave Whitman a solid idea of what to expect as an administrator. He especially enjoyed the EDLD 6370: Instructional Leadership Development course.
"We came in for three days for advanced training over the summer," he said. "We went through different scenarios about being a leader. We learned leadership techniques and how to interact with teachers. We also got to interact with other aspiring administrators, which was my favorite part of the program."
Michigan to Midland
Whitman grew up in Royal Oak, Michigan, just outside of Detroit. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in secondary education, with a history major and an earth science minor, from Western Michigan University in 2014.
"I wanted to be a history major," he said. "When I was going through the program, the counselor told me, 'You probably won't be able to find a job as a history major. If you become a history teacher, you will find a job.'
"I love the topic that I never got to teach. I was teaching math and science in a secondary education role. I had kids ages 10-17 in one of my classes."
Shortly after Whitman became the first person in his immediate family to earn a college degree, he moved to Texas for better teaching opportunities. He has worked at Midland Independent School District ever since, while also serving as a specialist in the United States Army Reserve.
"I went to a career fair for educators," he said. "They told me, 'You should move to Texas and make real money.' So, that's what I did."
After gaining experience, Whitman enrolled in the master's degree program in 2017. The online format allowed him to maintain a full-time job while spending time with his wife, Frances Atha, and also enjoying his hobbies of playing video games and Dungeons & Dragons.
Though he faced some challenges balancing one of the courses with his job, he is happy with how the program unfolded for him.
"Generally, doing the program online worked out well," he said. "The program was absolutely flexible and manageable."
The Next Chapter
Unfortunately, Whitman was not able to attend the commencement ceremony at UTPB because his family members had some issues with their vehicle.
"My family was on the way to town to attend graduation," he said. "They popped a tire, and we had to go and rescue them."
However, Whitman didn't miss a beat and is proud of his accomplishment. With the 2019-20 school year rapidly approaching, he also looks forward to learning the intricacies of being an administrator while channeling his energy in a whole new setting.
"My friends and family are excited," Whitman said. "My wife was very supportive. Her parents are both teachers in Houston. They told me they had never heard of anybody getting an administration job so quickly after graduation. It worked out well for me."
Although Whitman does not have an ultimate career goal in mind, he believes he is ready for a new challenge and where it might ultimately lead. Now that he has earned a graduate degree, he has some friendly advice for teachers considering the administration route.
"If you are going to do the master's degree program, make sure you have your feet under you as a teacher first," he said. "I absolutely got good value out of the program."
Learn more about the UTPB online MA in Educational Leadership program.
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.