Educator makes specialist degree a reality
Kelly Dean rises before dawn. She laces her running shoes for her daily race against time.
The Georgia College graduate-elect serves as assistant principal of East Laurens Primary School in Dublin.
She runs 10 hours a day — visiting classrooms, encouraging students and digging through mounds of paperwork.
“I wear a lot of shoes here,” Dean said. “But I’m always focused on the students and their educational opportunities.”
She also cares for her daughters — a 3 year old and a third-grader. She is a single parent during the week. Her husband isa traveling professional golfer.
And she values education for herself, her children, students and colleagues.
She shuffled her whirlwind lifestyle last year and returned to the university classroom, earning a specialist degree in education leadership.
“I will march proudly across that stage Friday night to receive my diploma,” said the non-traditional student. “I’ve earned it.”
Dean meets her 643 pre-kindergarten through second-grade students each morning at the front door with a smile and contagious enthusiasm.
Throughout the day she listens to their stories and celebrates their victories. The 16-year education veteran also encourages difficult students to reach for the stars.
During afternoon announcements she prompts first-graders as they read their stories and brags about their creativity.
She reviews daily lessons with another student before spending one-on-one time with an impaired pre-kindergartener, putting her school shoes away at 5 p.m. each day.
“A little positive attention will turn students around,” Dean said. “They will rise to the expectation. I treat each child like I do my own.”
Dean earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at sister universities. Last year she began a search for the best opportunity to earn her specialist degree.
Through online research, Dean discovered Georgia College’s Graduate and Professional Learning Center in Macon.
The center’s flexible, non-traditional scheduling allowed Dean to partner her daily responsibilities with her desire to earn a specialist degree.
“It’s doable,” she said. “It’s not always easy, but it is doable.”
Dean traveled one Satruday a month to Macon for class.
“Those Satrudays offered great opportunities to compare notes with other professionals,” she said. “We all had the same goals.”
Through the program’s blended model she completed the remainder of the requirements online and through her daily experiences with her students.
“I could not have achieved this goal without Georgia College,” Dean said. “Now I’m able to advance my career, increase our family income and make myself more marketable. And don’t forget the students: It’s all about educating the students.”
For more information about Georgia College’s graduate programs, visit www.gcsu.edu/graduate.
•Graduate Commencement: Front lawn,
7 p.m. Friday, May 6
• Undergraduate Commencement: Front
lawn, 8:45 a.m. Saturday, May 7
• Overflow areas: Air-conditioned
Russell Auditorium, Magnolia Ballroom
• Visit gcsu.edu/live to watch
commencements streamed online
Graduate School: 521
• ARTS AND SCIENCES: 124
Master of Arts: 18
Master of Fine Arts: 8
Master of Music Education: 8
Master of Public Administration: 37
Master of Science: 18
Master of Science in Administration: 30
Master of Criminal Justice: 5
• EDUCATION: 237
Specialist in Education: 74
Master of Arts in Teaching: 115
Master of Education: 48
• BUSINESS: 107
Master of Accountancy: 24
Master of Business Administration: 72
Master of Management Information Systems: 11
•HEALTH SCIENCES: 53
Master of Arts in Teaching: 7
Master of Education: 23
Master of Music Therapy: 7
Master of Science in Nursing: 16
Undergraduate School: 1,237
•ARTS AND SCIENCES: 644
Bachelor of Arts: 407
Bachelor of Music Education: 3
Bachelor of Science: 238
• EDUCATION: 73
Bachelor of Science: 73
• BUSINESS: 314
Bachelor of Arts: 9
Bachelor of Business Administration: 276
Bachelor of Science: 30
• HEALTH SCIENCES: 206
Bachelor of Music Therapy: 5
Bachelor of Science: 100
Bachelor of Science in Nursing: 101