What do you do for a living?

I am an associate professor of educational leadership at a public university.

How would you describe what you do?

I teach educators who would like to become school principals and school superintendents.

What does your work entail?

It involves everything from recruiting, screening, admitting, and teaching aspiring school administrators.  It’s a two-year graduate program where the students will complete a Master’s Degree by the time they complete the program.  I am the program director of the department, so I have a few more administrative tasks than some of the other professors, but essentially, we recruit, we screen, and then we work with graduate students for a two year period prior to them graduating with a Master’s.

What does a typical workweek look like for you?

My typical workweek is not unlike anyone else’s.  I go into work about 9:00 and I stay until 5:00 on most days.  All the classes I teach, I teach at night.  I typically teach three courses per semester, and each of them is three credit hours, I actually end up teaching two nights a week from 5:00 until 9:00 at night.  It’s a little different teaching schedule than teaching undergrads because all of my students have day jobs.

How did you get started in this career?

Well, I started out in education 38 years ago. During the time that I was teaching high school band.  I got my Master’s Degree and my Specialist Degree, and then moved into being a high school principal.  I was a high school principal for two years and then I became school superintendent.  I was a school superintendent for 19 years, and that gave me a total of 31 years before I retired in Missouri.

Your success[as a teacher] is determined by the success of the people that you teach.

I was only 52 years old after I retired and I had taught 31 years, so I didn’t want to quit working. So I moved out here and got a job teaching at this university.

What do you like about what you do?

It’s the best job ever.  I truly enjoyed being a school leader, I really did.  I enjoyed being a principal and enjoyed my 19 years as a school superintendent.  But I think that my true love has always been teaching.

What do you dislike about your job?

Like any job, universities have a good deal of bureaucracy. And I would say really, the only downside to the job I have right now is just the bureaucracy involved.  That’s a necessary evil.  It’s just required because of the way that the system works.

There’s very little to dislike about teaching at the university level.

There are probably different pressures that you have to deal with on a university level, of course.  If you plan to stay there, then you have to go through the process of promotion and tenure.  That can be challenging because you are required to publish in not only state but national journals.  You’re required to present on a regional, national, and international level.

You have to do a good deal of service in the university in order for you to achieve tenure.  Once you achieve tenure, all that really means is that the university will continue to employ you beyond your six years.  I just got promoted and tenured in May of this last year, which is pretty typical.  Generally, most professors have to work six years before they are considered an associate professor and get tenure status.

So, while the track to get tenured may be difficult it’s definitely not something that I dislike it’s just something people may find challenging.

How do you make money or how are you compensated in this job?

It’s a salaried position, much like any other job.  We’re paid off a single salary schedule.  There are merit increases that you can get.  We haven’t had any in several years because of the economic situations that have been going on.  Higher education does not pay well in comparison to most places.  A beginning salary at a university, even a Division 1 university, for my particular job would be somewhere in the mid-50s for a nine-month contract.  So it’s not a tremendous pay.

The advantage of it is the flexibility you have as far as your schedule and the flexibility as far as your teaching.  It’s a good gig, even though it doesn’t pay very much.

How much money do you make as an associate professor?


How much money do you make starting out?

If you want to back 38 years, my first teaching job paid $9,411 for a 12-month contract, and that was in 1974.  As superintendent, my salary was over $100,000 a year, but when I started at the university, my salary was $53,000, and then by the beginning of my seventh year I’m now making $80,000.

Are there any perks associated with this job?

We function off the university calendar, so we get all our major holidays and fall and spring breaks. Of course we have benefits, but the flexibility of what we do and how we work is one of the biggest perks.

To me, the biggest perk, and I’m not trying to be hammy or anything, but the biggest perk is being able to teach the students I’m teaching. I’m doing this job for fun, I’m not doing this job actually to try and make a living.

So the biggest perk I have are the graduate students that I get to work with.  These people are top notch and we’re teaching leadership, and those things to me are very important.

It’s like anything else. It doesn’t seem like work if you have passion about what you’re doing. I really love teaching and that’s really what I do best.

It’s like anything else. It doesn’t seem like work if you have passion about what you’re doing.  I really love teaching and that’s really what I do best.

What education or skills are needed to be an associate professor?

A lot of education. Your nationally accredited universities will not have professors in education that do not have doctorate degrees.  I have a Bachelor’s, a Master’s Degree, I have a Specialist Degree, and I have a Doctoral Degree.  So there is a lot of schooling involved.

As far as skills you really need to be an expert in the area you teach.  I would hesitate saying I’m an expert because that sounds arrogant, but to me, my proficiencies are in school law, school personnel, and school finance.

There is a lot of post graduate work that you have to continually participate in.  One of the perks about working at the university is that they are very good about providing you with opportunities for professional development.  They have been very good to me in allowing me to continue to upgrade my knowledge base while I’ve been here at the university.  I get to do a lot of law conferences, I present all over the United States, in the area of school bullying and prevention of school sexual abuse, and a variety of other things.  The university is supportive of those things because it does add to your knowledge base, which you in turn can then pass on to your students.

What would you say is the most challenging about what you do?

Making sure that your current with what is happening in education today.  I am a practitioner, so when I teach a graduate class, I teach it from a practitioner’s viewpoint.  The most important thing to me is that when my students graduate from the program they understand exactly what they’re supposed to do when they get out into the field.

So the most challenging part is keeping the relationship between the university and the public schools open so that we know that we’re teaching the latest and greatest so that when our students get out there, they have shortened their learning curve.  When they hit the ground as new principal or new school superintendent, we want them to know more and be better than anyone else.  So, our challenge is to make sure that we stay current and that we provide state of the art information to our students.

What would you say is most rewarding about what you do?

Watching our students become successful school leaders. And this is really our department’s slogan, and that’s the fact that your success is determined by the success of the people that you teach.  If our students graduate from the department and become successful school administrators then that’s very rewarding for me.  If they get out and fall on their nose, then that means I failed too.

What advice would offer someone considering this career?

School leadership and teaching is something you have to have a passion for.  You are never going to be wealthy.  Your rewards are going to be largely intrinsic.  Successful leadership is entirely based on your ability to build relationships with other people and your ability to recognize the talents of other people.

In the 21st century, there is no room for an arrogant leader.  You have to be humble and have humility, and if you don’t possess those things or you’re not willing to take on those behaviors then school leadership or leadership in general is not the place for you to be.

You have to recognize that you’re never going to be the end-all to what you’re doing. You have to continually learn and have to continually admit your mistakes.

It really becomes something that if you don’t have a passion for doing this, or you’re doing it for the money, or you’re doing this because of the schedule, or if you’re doing it for any other reason than you have a passion for seeing schools and children getting a better education, it’s going to be hard to succeed.

How much time off do you get or take with this job?

As a college professor, you have such a flexible schedule, that that’s a difficult question to answer.  If you don’t want to teach during the summer, then of course, you get all summer off.  If I don’t teach in the summer then I get three months off there, I get Thanksgiving, a fall break of five days, I get a winter vacation of about a month, and I get a spring break.

So if you stop to think about it, the schedule that we have and the time off that we have makes for a very nice job.

What is a common misconception people have about what you do?

That it’s not work.  They believe that if you’re a college professor, you’re somewhere up in the ivory tower, smoking a pipe and being philosophical.  When in reality, I believe good college professors are highly motivated individuals with a passion to make the world a better place.  It is a great job, but I think the misconception is how easy it is.

It takes a lot of training, it takes a lot of experience, it requires a lot of education, and it also requires a lot study.

What are your goals and dreams for the future in this job or career?

I just want to keep doing what I’m doing.  I’m 59 years old.  I will probably teach another three to ten years.  My guess is that I will retire sometime in the next few years and then I plan on traveling and enjoying myself.

What else would you like people to know about what you do?

That it can either be the best job on earth, or it can be the worst job on earth.  If you want it to be the best job on earth you have to have a passion to want to do it.

We’re all on the earth for a very long period of time, so while we’re here, we need to see if we can make it a better place for folks.  If we’re not, we need to re-evaluate what we’re doing.