“The satisfaction of accomplishment is indescribable”: Q&A with Darlene Hester-Slade, MEd ’15
It’s one thing to believe in a cause, it’s another thing to change your career for it. Darlene Hester-Slade’s passion for special education developed later in life after she had already earned her MBA and had a fifteen-year career as a successful accountant. We sat down with this Virginia-based Exceptional Education Teacher to find out more about her educational journey. Read on to discover what motivates our latest Featured Cavalier.
What inspired you to become an educator?
A few years ago, my grandson was diagnosed with autism, so I began to research and study it. My grandson is a very bright and creative young man but we found that it was difficult to find an appropriate fit for him, a place that would accentuate his value and promote a positive academic future for him. I was troubled by what special education had to offer in the public school setting so I made it a personal goal and lifelong quest to help change how students with learning disabilities are addressed and what they are offered academically. I decided to become an educator to be part of the change I seek.
So I switched careers, leaving a successful 15-year career as a governmental accountant to develop my passion for teaching. I am a firm believer that whatever you undertake, you should seek to be properly trained and/or educated. I welcome every opportunity available to increase my knowledge and skill set and stay current on what it takes to be a student today. I have found that my students respond positively to the fact that I can share my current experiences as a student with them.
What degree did you acquire from Concordia University-Portland, and what made you choose Concordia?
I earned a Master of Education in Special Education. I chose Concordia for the accelerated class offerings, content rigor, and instruction by leaders/educators in the field.
Concordia allowed me the opportunity to earn a valuable degree that has proven beneficial in my career as an educator and advocate for students with learning disabilities. I was exposed to and learned current strategies, methodology, and skills that I could immediately transfer to my classroom and students.
What skills/techniques/methods did you gain or hone as a result of Concordia’s program?
Research was an area of weakness for me prior to entering the program at Concordia. During my classes I was able to strengthen my research skills and utilize current methods and techniques that have helped me advance professionally and will continue to in the future. As a result of my research and the skills/techniques I’ve learned, I have been able to provide a higher level of differentiation in my instruction to increase my students’ academic success.
Do you have a favorite course you can tell me about?
I thoroughly enjoyed each of my courses; to pick a favorite is difficult. I especially enjoyed the interaction with instructors and classmates with varying perspectives and experiences in the field. The interaction with other education professionals was a major factor in the learning experience and provided additional insight into how other educators and school systems address special education. My cohort still keeps in touch and we frequently share information and resources—this in itself has become a valuable resource.
What keeps you motivated and passionate about education?
My greatest motivation is seeing the difference I make in the lives of my students. Each of their accomplishments, big or small, confirms that I am doing what I was called to do. I want to inspire my students and instill in them the ability to inspire others.
What advice or insight would you give other busy professionals who are considering a graduate degree from Concordia?
Commitment includes sacrifice. Concordia is an ideal choice for professionals with that understanding. It is not easy, but it is obtainable and well worth the effort and sacrifice. The satisfaction of accomplishment is indescribable, coupled with a rewarding education. Concordia was the perfect choice for me and one that I highly recommend for any professional willing to put in the work to earn a valuable degree.
How do you feel the program and what you learned aligns with Concordia’s mission to prepare leaders for the transformation of society?
Transformation is accomplished when there is a true understanding of what is taking place in the real world and those who seek to be a part of the transformation are adequately educated and equipped for it. Concordia provided that education for me.
What do you still hope to achieve as an educator?
It is my goal to pursue a doctoral degree in education to further support my efforts in education and advocacy of students with learning disabilities requiring special education services. It is my desire to prepare myself academically to be able to be a stronger voice for students who cannot always speak for themselves. I want to be an effective educator who prepares my students academically to be productive, confident citizens who are able to motivate and inspire others.
Thank you, Darlene!
Kara Wyman has a BA in literature and an MEd from the University of California-Santa Barbara. She spent a decade working with adolescents as an English teacher, the founder and director of a drama program, a curriculum designer, and a project manager for a teen-centered nonprofit organization. She is now the Alumni and Community Manager for Concordia University-Portland.