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NSU welcomes back student to finish degree 15 years later

Adam Brown started studying Early Childhood Education in 1995 at Northeastern State University when he was 20 years old. While he enjoyed school, at the time Brown wanted nothing more than to become a firefighter. He left in 1998—without completing his degree.

“I thought I could always come back,” Brown said. He was right. Fifteen years later, after retiring from his dream job due to injuries, Brown returned to NSU and resumed his education degree, with tremendous guidance from faculty and staff.

“There were a couple of years there [after retiring], when I didn’t know what to do. I was scared to come back to NSU because I figured none of my credits would count.”

He said after setting up an appointment and meeting with the Education Department, he was approved to continue his degree with the credits he earned all those years ago.

“They put me on a plan to finish my degree in a year and a half,” Brown said, describing the staff who advised him as helpful and accommodating.

The 39-year-old said coming back to school had its challenges. He was generally older than most of his classmates and had to adjust to updated technology used in classes.

“The classes were really hard but all my advisors and instructors helped me through every bit of it. When I started I didn’t even know what ‘Blackboard’ was,” he recalled, referring to the online learning platform at NSU.

“They were very patient with me.”

He described the professors as going “above and beyond” for their students.

“Anytime I got to the point where I felt demotivated, they kind of picked me up and supported me the whole time.”

Brown is now on track to complete his degree this December--after rigorous classes and experiential training in multiple public schools.

The latter component he said was what ultimately prepared him for the real world of teaching. The internship opportunities provided by NSU have given him a true taste of what it takes to be a teacher.

“NSU is known for producing good teachers. And the reason for that is because of the stuff you have to do as part of the degree, before you start teaching on your own.”

Teachers-in-training at NSU are required to participate in three internships throughout their academic career. Pre-Internship I (Pre I) lasts eight weeks, with NSU students stationed in a public school classroom one day per week.

“You start by just observing. The clinical faculty lets you participate in some activities but basically you’re there to understand how a classroom operates.”

Brown was assigned to Arrowhead Elementary School in Broken Arrow. There he observed classroom management styles; tools which Brown said were invaluable because they bridged the gap between textbook theory and real life situations.
For his Pre-Internship II (Pre II) at Jenks East Elementary, Brown said students have to participate in a public school classroom one full day per week, for 10 weeks at a minimum.

“It’s a little more in-depth. There are three lessons you’re supposed to teach. Your clinical faculty grades you on how well you taught the lesson, and the whole time you’re doing your Pre II, you’re interacting with the kids.”

Brown joked he was a bit of an overachiever for his Pre II internship, as he interned more than once a week.

“I finished my 10 days a long time ago,” Brown said with a chuckle, “I’m on my 18th day now I think and I want to stay with them until the end of the school year.”

His final, full internship will begin in August at Darnaby
Elementary School, where Brown will have to take the reins and run the class for 80 full days, five days a week, as his mentor supervises.

An NSU representative will observe Brown during a few sessions of this internship, and he will be graded accordingly.

“It’s not an ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C’ type grade. It’s either pass or fail. If you don’t know what you’re doing at that point, you probably should fail,” Brown said.

He explained that by the home stretch, given all the opportunity NSU offers its students, they should be fully prepared for that final evaluation.

His confidence has been boosted by the exposure to classrooms and pupils, saying it’s a blessing to have that hands-on experience.

“That’s why I feel like NSU is the best pick because when school districts are looking for teachers, they know NSU students are pretty prepared.”

Three schools have shown interest in Brown, hoping to have him join their faculty as soon as he graduates.

“There are a couple of schools I’m interested in and they are kind of interested in me. NSU has given me a lot of opportunities to get a job even before I’ve graduated.”

Brown’s journey has been long and winding, and his ultimate goal is to finish what he started when he was 20 years old.

“I think what I look forward to most about finishing my degree and getting out there is simply that I’ve accomplished it.

“Even at almost 40 years old, the fact that I left and had another successful career, with all my other responsibilities outside of school, that no one else in my family graduated from college, it makes me proud.”

Brown has his sights set on graduate school next. He hopes to start his master’s in school administration by the end of the year.

Published: 9/1/2015 4:09:54 PM

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