“Their collective voice spoke volumes on the issues they faced”: Q & A with Camille Schuler, EdD ‘18
Having completed a couple of successful careers in the private sector, Camille decided to be an educator later in life. Earning her EdD helped her establish the credibility she was seeking, but it also taught her much more than she ever expected to learn.
What was the greatest takeaway from your degree?
The greatest takeaway from this program was the power of the student’s voice. I did a qualitative phenomenological study where I interviewed 10 second-generation Hispanic adolescents. And what I found was their collective voice spoke volumes on the issues they faced, both personally and in the school system. Their answers and the depth, thoughtfulness, and insight that can come from teenagers was enough to make me realize that we need to listen to them more and give them more opportunities to share their perspective of education and of the world.
What was your dissertation topic and what inspired you to take it in that direction?
My dissertation was on the way in which Spanish, as the heritage language, influences the cultural integration of second-generation Hispanic adolescents. In other words, how their heritage language influences their bicultural identity; how they see themselves as Hispanic and American.
I was inspired to do this because one year I was teaching sophomore English and we were reading To Kill a Mockingbird. No matter how much scaffolding I did, I was finding that the Hispanic students in my class were still struggling with the concepts, content, and some of the themes. So I bought a bunch of copies of To Kill a Mockingbird in Spanish and I said, “Okay, here’s what I’ve been thinking. I’d like you to start reading the first chapter and then we’ll have a discussion together about what you see as you’re reading in your own language.”
And they all looked at me and said, “We can’t read this.” I was shocked. Maybe that’s not shocking for some ELL teachers or teachers who work with Hispanic students. But it was for me. This happened right at the time when I was trying to figure out where I should direct my research. I thought: I need to explore this idea of students’ experiences with their heritage language and see if it has any influence on their self-perceptions.
As I went through and conducted the research, I realized there were a lot of dissertations on how students acculturated. In other words, how Hispanic students see themselves in their bicultural identity and the influences of school, of parents, and of peers. However, I hardly saw anything that singled out the influence of their language — how they speak, how they hear it, whether they can read it or not, whether they choose to study it or not. And so all of that came together to influence my direction.
There was an article I read from 2016 by Claudio Sanchez, and it stuck with me for a while. He said that gifted Latinos are often overlooked and underserved because their inability to speak English and to read and write in English obscures their natural talent. So it’s really fascinating to see that. I was watching that article basically lived out in front of me as I was listening to the students share their ideas.
How do you think this degree has benefited you professionally?
I’ve been teaching for seven years and I started this career later in life. So earning my EdD in Instructional Leadership from Concordia has given me credibility as an educator. Interestingly with my students, I’ve been able to talk to them for these past few years about what it’s like to get a doctorate. I’ve actually had students tell me that they hadn’t even thought about going to college and now they’re thinking maybe they want to get their doctorate. I’ve shared the road that I’ve been traveling and they feel like they’re traveling along with me. I’ve even gotten greater student effort because they appreciate what I’m going through as well. It’s been amazing to watch my students grow along with me.
It’s given me more credibility in the district and even with my administration. I’ve had it to a certain extent, but because they know that what I’m researching is so relevant, they’re asking more about what I’m discovering. I’ve also gained credibility with our local university in southern Oregon. I’ve been invited to present my research to the professors and the department heads there, so I can see how this degree has already begun to benefit everybody that I’ve come in contact with personally and professionally.
What’s something that you enjoyed about Concordia’s doctoral program?
Every time I would complete one of my courses, I’d realize that my critical thinking skills, my reading and writing skills, my research skills — all of those were increasing exponentially. What I’ve loved about getting my degree from Concordia is the insight into others and into myself that I’ve gained through this process. The demands of this degree have allowed me to see what I am capable of doing.
What, if anything, did you appreciate about Concordia’s faith-based values?
One of the reasons I chose Concordia was because of their faith-based values. Sometimes I think our intellect is put aside to increase our faith. Paul calls us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind and what better way to renew your mind than to grow in your knowledge and understanding of the world? That allows you to not only be educated but then help others be educated.
The other thing I’ve seen is that a lot of educators who are Christians struggle with their faith because they see their faith as separate from their reason and intellect and career or professional life. They see faith as only witnessing or being able to minister, something very narrowly spiritual. And then they see work as something secular.
So there’s this secular/spiritual divide. And I say that God requires us and allows us to be his hands and his feet and his teachers on earth. So, just by educating the students that are sitting in front of me, I am carrying out my faith completely. I am being a Christian in the fullest capacity that I possibly can, even if I’m not sharing the gospel.
Through Concordia and through getting this EdD, I have found a way where faith and reason have come together, and I think it’s a powerful way for us to carry out not only the motto of Concordia, but the part of the great commandment that calls us to love God with all of our minds.
What advice would you give to those who are currently pursuing their EdD?
If you’re in your EdD program right now and you’re feeling overwhelmed, I’m here to tell you that the challenge is completely worth it. I felt the exact same way, and not just in the beginning. But as the program progresses and becomes more challenging and demanding on your time and your mind, it’s amazing to come through that process and watch the growth that takes place personally and professionally. It’s all so worth it.