“My goal is to provide a safe place to build success”: Q&A with Tina Lageson, EdD ’17
It’s easy to see the potential in young learners, but recognizing what they can already contribute and encouraging their growth requires a dedicated advocate with passion and expertise. Meet Tina Lageson, EdD, a kindergarten teacher at Glencoe Elementary School in Portland, Oregon. She’s a three-peat alum of Concordia University-Portland, having earned her BS in Early Childhood Education, her MEd in Curriculum & Instruction: Reading Interventionist, and her EdD in Transformational Leadership. Read on to learn about her professional and academic experiences, her passion for early childhood education, and much more.
What inspired you to work in education?
I became inspired to work in the field of education through my experiences as a parent volunteer at the neighborhood school that my children attended in Portland, Oregon. I saw the daily dedication of the staff members and I really enjoyed working with other parents and the staff. With the experience and trust I’d built as a volunteer, I was offered a position for a few months to work as an educational assistant in the school. The experience working at the elementary school and my additional experience working as an educator at a local childcare center really taught me what I had to offer.
What made you choose Concordia for three different degrees?
When I started attending school, I was 32 and had a family and needed a place close to home. I chose Concordia University-Portland because of the small community nature of the school. I loved the personal connections that I could make with other students and with the staff. I knew from talking to teachers and administrators that Concordia had a solid reputation for quality educators, so it seemed like the perfect fit. I continued with Concordia for my MEd because I’d already built solid relationships with some of the professors and I knew I would continue to build my skills and advance my career with quality experiences.
When the EdD program was being developed, I was searching for a doctoral program and seeking recommendation letters from past professors. I was informed about the program from my contacts. I received an invitation to learn about the program and give input. All of my other experiences in my on-ground courses had been wonderful, so I was very excited to be a part of the first Concordia Portland doctoral cohort.
What are some of the challenges that you face in your current position in education and how do you try to address them?
One of the biggest challenges faced is adequate school supports for learners. We are seeing an increase in students that need small class sizes, one-on-one support, and trauma-informed practices. I work collectively with my colleagues to speak out about the lack of funding. I believe that we should never stop learning so I am always seeking new methods and practices. I stand up and speak out for my students and families.
What do you think is one of the biggest misconceptions about education today?
There is a misconception about the ability level of young learners. We tend to shield young children from topics that other children live through. For example, in my classroom, we have discussed houselessness and racism from a child’s perspective. As educators, we need to show young children that their experience is not the only one that exists. Exposure to other life experiences builds empathy and compassion for others that is essential in adulthood.
What keeps you motivated and passionate about education?
Creating new ways to bring social justice concepts into my kindergarten classroom keeps me going. I just love the enthusiasm of young children — their honesty and drive to learn. The kindergarten teachers I work with have the same passion and that keeps me motivated. We have used this passion to complete service learning projects with our students. These projects have brought the whole school community together.
What skills did you gain or hone as a result of your MEd and your EdD?
I have always loved books as a child and an adult. Sharing my passion for books in my classroom has always been essential. The MEd in Curriculum & Instruction: Reading Interventionist program gave me the skills and methods to bring more knowledge about the process of reading to my students. Both the MEd and EdD program increased my skills in presenting materials to adults. This has been beneficial with equity trainings and other staff trainings I’ve facilitated.
Has your MEd and/or EdD helped you in terms of your current position or a future position you’d like to attain?
Both degrees created opportunities for me to develop knowledge around research. This knowledge was beneficial when talking to the administration about issues where research could be used to support a point. Additionally, they supported my desire to work with student teachers in my classroom as a mentor teacher. In the future, I would like to move into teaching coursework at a university or college.
What was the biggest challenge for you during your EdD program and who or what helped you through it?
I worked full time and had a family while going through the program. I think the biggest challenge was the amount of reading. Grasping the concepts could be difficult. Sometimes I felt like I was drowning in theories or concepts. I was completely overloaded with ideas and unsure of myself. Then, all of a sudden, the floodgates opened and I had some understanding. The process continued this way for many of the courses. My husband and family were extremely supportive but I truly could not have completed the program without the support of my cohort. We were a small but close group and saw each other every week, working outside of class together. Talking or commiserating about our issues was extremely cathartic.
Can you share a bit about your dissertation experience? Do you have any tips for current EdD students?
The dissertation process can be lonely. It was hard when the regular coursework stopped and I didn’t see my cohort members every week. I suggest staying connected with someone in your cohort. Not many other people can understand what you are going through. Stay in regular contact with your committee members. They are there to support you.
Also, I suggest creating some sort of documentation to keep yourself accountable for the work you need to do. I had a special planner book that was for my dissertation work. It was separate from my work calendar. I also planned out a writing schedule for myself. This helped my family. Create a writing schedule that is attainable and remember to put in breaks for your mental and emotional health. Take a weekday off of writing. Your writing will be better for it.
What kind of student were you when you were younger, and was this an obvious career path for you?
When I was young, I struggled with reading as an elementary school student. I received tutoring during second or third grade. This didn’t stop me from loving books and enjoying school. In high school, I was a good student but not especially driven. The idea of being a teacher wasn’t anywhere on my radar. Actually, after high school, I had no real desire for more education. The idea of going to college didn’t happen until I was in my 30s. It is interesting how age and experience can alter a person’s desire to change and grow.
What type of impact do you hope to have as a leader in education?
My goal as a teacher, mentor, and educational leader is to provide a safe place to build success. Whether I am working with young learners building phonemic principles or a pre-service teacher practicing classroom management techniques, I believe in an environment that fosters active engagement, making mistakes, and reflecting. I hope that no matter what aspects of education I may work in, the people around me feel supported in their progression toward their goals.
Kara Wyman earned an MEd and a BA 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’s served as the Alumni and Community Manager for Concordia University-Portland and is now the managing editor of Concordia’s Room 241 blog.