Talking With Darcy Hill, Master's in Teacher Leadership
Darcy Hill has been teaching since 1981 in a variety of settings, but always with a strong twist of creative and performing arts woven through the curriculum. For the last 20 years, she has taught Creative Drama at a Lutheran Elementary School in Rockford, Illinois.
Her MEd in Curriculum & Instruction with a concentration in Teacher Leadership inspired her to re-examine the world of learning, challenged her to be brave with change, and affirmed in her heart the truth of the adage, “You can in fact teach an old dog a new trick.” She has been married 27 years to “a very patient man,” has “three remarkable sons who are all out in the world chasing their dreams,” and also has two rambunctious Labs “who studied with me every day.”
You earned a master’s in Teacher Leadership. Why is it important that classroom teachers be school leaders?
“The world is changing at an outrageous pace. Our children, our students have no choice but to keep up. We have no choice but to keep up, as well, if we are to guide them on their way to their dreams and equip them for all of the challenges that will clutter their paths as they journey.
“As a teacher of 30 years, I know that I am prone to complacency; if it worked last year, it will surely work even better this year. A complacent propensity can become a bit contagious up and down the hallway at school, for it’s affirming to be comfortable together.
“I felt restless and rather conflicted in this mindset, however, as deep down I knew that the students needed more from me. I was expecting more from them than I was expecting from myself. I needed to high-tail it out of the swamp of complacency and run with the students down the groundbreaking path toward their success. Sometimes you just need to start the parade; that’s why teachers need to be leaders. You can’t be a follower and lead students very well.”
You describe yourself as a ‘digital immigrant.’ What kind of digital skill did you have when you started Concordia University-Portland’s online MEd program? Did you ever need Concordia Portland’s help with your digital needs?
“I could send an email, which I learned how to do under duress and with exceptional resentment. I am ashamed of my resistance and reluctance. Most everything else was very challenging and new. Concordia provided outstanding, prompt, professional, and patient support whenever I needed it. I learned that like a foreign language, if one genuinely tries and still struggles, others will quickly leap out of the woodwork to assist with great patience and generosity; family, co-workers, CU classmates, occasionally my students, and CU support.”
You recently started a blog. Is this an outgrowth of the skills you learned while working on your online MEd?
“I had to really work at this degree; it was very difficult for me as I have been out of school essentially since 1981. Theories have changed, strategies have changed, families have changed, the pace of life has changed, nearly everything has changed, and especially technology. The learning curves in every department were exceedingly steep. I read every assigned word because I desperately needed to understand.
“When suddenly the classes were finished and I had earned the hard sought-after degree, my mind still craved academic thought and challenge, because not writing a paper each day somehow felt wasteful. My sons encouraged me to try blogging in order to keep ‘my pencil flowing.’ ”
What advice would you give to current online MEd students, or to people thinking of pursuing an online MEd from Concordia Portland?
“I encouraged someone just today to consider CU online for a master’s degree. Don’t give up, would be my strongest advice. On my most difficult days, when time was painfully short and stress was painfully high, I simply did my best. Professors were always approachable, empathetic, and willing to flex, thus treating us as professionals and adults. The material is hugely relevant, interesting, and cutting edge, and brings one directly into a place of informed leadership.”
What did you like best about the program?
“I learned more than I ever imagined I could. This will bless my students and my school. I loved that I could complete work when it suited the schedule of my family. There were clearly sacrifices of time made, but absolutely no family events or occasions were compromised or lost. I felt deeply privileged to share learning with such excellent, patient, intelligent, capable, creative, and committed individuals.”
What is the most memorable place where you sat down with a laptop and participated in a class?
“We were in the mountains of North Carolina with a huge crowd of extended family, all gathered to spend a week celebrating grandma’s 80th birthday. Hikes, feasts, photo sessions, and storytelling were the order of the day each day.
“I had lots of work to do that week, for a class about learning, brain research, and brain structures and function, etc., and the Internet connections in our mountain cabin were nonexistent. We discovered, much to our joy, that the beautiful lodge overlooking the Great Smoky Mountains had Internet, so from then on and all week I studied in a quiet, enormous lodge with a tremendous and deeply inspiring view.”