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Educator makes specialist degree a reality

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Kelly Dean rises before dawn. She laces her running shoes Assistant Principal Kelly Dean spends one-on-one time with a pre-kindergarten student as school dismisses.Assistant Principal Kelly Dean spends one-on-one time with a pre-kindergarten student as school dismisses.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.

Dean reviews the day’s lessons with a student: “A little positive attention will turn students around.”Dean reviews the day’s lessons with a student: “A little positive attention will turn students around.”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

•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 to watch
     commencements streamed online

Graduate School: 521
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
Specialist in Education: 74
Master of Arts in Teaching: 115
Master of Education: 48
Master of Accountancy: 24
Master of Business Administration: 72
Master of Management Information Systems: 11
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
Bachelor of Arts: 407
Bachelor of Music Education: 3
Bachelor of Science: 238
Bachelor of Science: 73
Bachelor of Arts: 9
Bachelor of Business Administration: 276
Bachelor of Science: 30
Bachelor of Music Therapy: 5
Bachelor of Science: 100
Bachelor of Science in Nursing: 101

ABOUT GEORGIA COLLEGE: Georgia College, the state’s designated Public Liberal Arts University, combines the educational experience expected at esteemed private liberal arts colleges with the affordability of public higher education. Its four colleges – arts and sciences, business, education and health sciences – provide 6,600 undergraduate and graduate students with an exceptional learning environment that extends beyond the classroom, with hands-on involvement with faculty research, community service, study abroad and myriad internships.

Founded in 1889, Georgia College boasts one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation with Corinthian columns fronting red brick buildings and wide open green spaces. Georgia College also offers graduate education at the historic Jefferson building in downtown Macon, at Robins Air Force Base and online.

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For more information, contact University Communications at (478) 445-4477.