Destiny is taking flight for Leah McCollum-Michelsen. Times two.
The Spokane native is enrolled in the Master of Education – Educational Leadership, Principal Certification online program at Eastern Washington University in hopes of becoming an administrator. Her mother, Sue McCollum, is in her 20th year as a school principal.
“My mom is awesome,” McCollum-Michelsen said. “She graduated from Eastern with a principal certificate. My uncle got his master’s degree and doctorate at Eastern. I also took a few courses there several years ago and enjoyed the campus. I’ve got family history at Eastern. It’s a great school.”
McCollum-Michelsen is a fifth-grade teacher at Adams Elementary School in the Central Valley School District in Spokane Valley. Her mother works at Sunrise Elementary in the same school district. McCollum-Michelsen enrolled in the online M.Ed. program in January 2019.
“I was feeling a little stagnant,” she said. “I wanted to go back to school and get that fire burning again. I taught first grade for six years and moved to fifth grade this year. I wanted to look at some other facets of education and different things I could do.”
The online format allows McCollum-Michelsen to balance school with a full-time job and family commitments. She and her husband, Bryan, have three daughters — Ava (16), Eliana (12) and Nora (3).
“So far, it’s been awesome,” she said. “I have appreciated the organized setup of the classes. It’s very straightforward. I know what to expect for the entire six weeks the second that my class comes up on Canvas. It’s nice because if I have the time to work at home, that’s an option. That’s so convenient.”
McCollum-Michelsen began her teaching career after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in education from Whitworth University in 2012. The EWU online M.Ed. program is her first experience with distance learning.
“There weren’t online options at the time I was going to Whitworth,” she said. “The university was much closer to me than Eastern, so I could attend classes on campus. My mom inspired me to go into teaching. My dad, Kevin, is a retired firefighter who ended up teaching paramedics, too. It’s in my blood.”
Although McCollum-Michelsen is still in the early stages of the online M.Ed. program, she especially enjoyed her first course, EDUC 522: Transformation of Learning and Teaching.
“It was about exploring educational philosophies and getting into the meat of what education is about,” she said. “It has helped me reflect on my teaching style and my students. It was a helpful class to get a breath of fresh air back into why I’m teaching, why it’s important and what the point is with working with my students.”
McCollum-Michelsen quickly learned the importance of time management in an online format, which allows students the flexibility to do schoolwork any time of day.
“You have to make a schedule for yourself,” she said. “Set aside time each day It’s been awesome, so far.”
McCollum-Michelsen developed a routine to work on the online M.Ed. – Educational Leadership, Principal Certification program, which she plans to complete in 2020.
“My husband and I pick a few days during the week where I stay late at school and do coursework for Eastern in my classroom,” she said. “There are not as many distractions. Then, I can go be home and spend time with my family.”
McCollum-Michelsen, who enjoys running and gardening, will have another family member attending Eastern Washington University with her soon. Ava is in the Running Start Program, which allows high school juniors and seniors to take college courses. She will spend her senior year of high school attending classes on the EWU campus before becoming a full-time college student the next year.
“Education has always been important to our family,” McCollum-Michelsen said. “They’re excited for me. My daughter and I figured out that she will graduate from high school, and I will graduate with my master’s degree at the same time.”
Once McCollum-Michelsen completes the online program, she plans on keeping her options open. But don’t be surprised if she follows in her mother’s footsteps.
“I want to work in administration of some sort,” she said. “I’m not sure if it will be specifically principal, but I am looking forward to seeing what the internship has to offer and if that’s the direction I want to go. I’m still trying to figure it out. Fortunately, I feel like these experiences will guide me where I’m supposed to be.”
The decision to return to higher education is already paying dividends.
“I am able to apply what we’re doing in our classes to what’s happening in my own classroom,” McCollum-Michelsen said. “No matter what
Learn more about the EWU online M.Ed. – Educational Leadership, Principal Certification program.