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From the newsroom to the classroom: A journalist becomes a teacher
Career changer Russell Stahlke is carrying his love of journalism and writing into his new career as a fourth grade teacher, showing that a variety of knowledge and skill sets can be useful in the classroom.
“What I found out is that my writing background led into my success as a teacher candidate because there is so much writing, researching and publishing involved in becoming a teacher,” Russell said. “I write a weekly newsletter that I send home to parents.”
His interest in newsworthy topics leads him to develop creative lesson plans that bring real-world activities to life for his students.
“We’re going to have a class president for room 245,” Russell said. “A kid is going to be elected and they all made their own campaign posters and are campaigning. They had a big final five presidential debate. We had a lively and productive discussion, and they were agreeing and disagreeing with each other in a polite way. We were learning about the election/government process and practicing communication at the same time.”
He says seeing his students learn and grow is what inspires him most.
“When you see it all clicking and the students making real progress and growing as human beings, you see their scores getting better, and you see it all taking place and know it’s because of the work you’re doing, it’s the best,” Russell said. “I love working with kids because you’re changing the direction of their lives.”
Earning his Master in Teaching
Russell is a first-year teacher at Gregory Heights Elementary in the Highline School District, and he earned his teacher certification through City University of Seattle’s Master in Teaching program.
“I looked at a lot of colleges and universities and could tell that CityU was right for me because it fits your lifestyle – even if you’re a full-time professional you can still earn your degree,” Russell said
While he was taking classes, he worked full time as a para educator during the school year and a behavioral specialist at a camp for autistic children during the summer.
“I did the performance-based program and it was great,” Russell said. “What I learned has completely prepared me to be a teacher. The things in the modules and courses actually connect to the reality of being a teacher. What’s currently being instructed at CityU connects with the trends in education now.”
The flexibility of the Master in Teaching program helped him balance the competing demands of work and school.
“They just seemed so willing to work with whatever situation I came to them with,” Russell said. “It’s very adaptable to your life. With the performance-based program you work at your own speed. You still have an instructor that communicates with you. There’s excellent communication, support when you need it, and the library has ample resources so you can complete all of your assignments. Overall it has wonderful resources, very helpful staff and an adaptable program.”
Returning to the classroom
Although he only graduated a few months ago, Russell is already back at CityU as a student, this time to earn his Doctor of Education in Leadership.
“I think the Ed.D. has a lot of the same great aspects of the MIT,” Russell said. “The performance-based and online programs are useful and help you learn a lot. It’s not getting a degree for the sake of the degree, every module had meaning. I thought it would be the same, and it has been with a more challenging and higher-level scale.”
The opportunity to learn from faculty members who are actively working in education is particularly valuable to him.
“My teacher now is a superintendent,” Russell said. “The faculty have very, very experienced backgrounds. Going to school here is like networking.”
In the future, Russell hopes to make the transition into educational leadership himself.
“I would like to be a principal and then maybe a superintendent,” Russell said.
Ultimately, the opportunity to work with children is what’s most important to him.
“When you work with kids, you’re changing the world: you’re building them into positive people and changing the trajectory of their lives,” Russell said. “If you have a positive interaction with them it can create a chain reaction. I saw what a difference you can make when you change the life of a student.”
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